Then, without fanfare, a man who looked distinctly like Patrick Stewart appeared on the stage. His likeness to the famous Star Trek actor owed much to the fact that it was, in fact, him. A silence descended and Stewart's unmistakeable tones could be heard. He was not, he said, able to play the role this evening. He had been struggling all week with his voice - that much was clear listening to him - and his doctors had finally stepped in. He was deeply apologetic. It is, he said, an unbearable thing for an actor to do. But, he added, this was an excellent production with fine actors and we were in for a very good afternoon. And as he finished, he was greeted with a sustained and genuine applause. His simple act of graciousness and courtesy had won us all over. He hadn't, after all, taken us for granted. He had taken the trouble to turn up and apologise in person. Such a respect for their public is, alas, increasingly rare amongst celebrities of many different hues - Stewart reminded us that there was still another side.
The production was, indeed, excellent. A genuinely thrilling, dynamic and thought-provoking performance - the best 'Macbeth' I've seen. Yes, Stewart's presence would certainly have been the icing on the cake, but his replacement filled the role admirably, and the strength of a genuinely ensemble production with high values and much dramatic flair was apparent throughout. There was much to chew over from this most political of plays, but as we walked away we also retained a feeling of affection and admiration for the man who wasn't Macbeth that day. A little courtesy went a long way.