This week we saw a performance of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Unfortunately many people in our group did not like it. From hearing various reasons I would say the group’s average criticism was a lack of clarity and direction. I have not made up my mind, so I’m going to try and favor the performance in this debate. As I begin to write this I look at the time and am reminded of Macbeth’s famous line, “sleep no more.” But sleep I shall! Just in a little bit. The stage was adorned with metal columns that could light up, bent metal on the walls and doors, and a grate metal apron at the front of the stage that had four trap doors in it. As someone who is scared easily, I kept expecting the Weird Sisters (double, double, toil, and trouble, all that jazz) to climb out of them. They did not! Oh well, I’ll get back to the Weird Sisters later. Like I said, I still have extremely mixed feelings about this performance, but I’m trying so hard not to just decide that I didn’t like it.
Believe me, one of life’s most splendorous joys is having people towering over you with a waterfall of spit falling on your face. I understand that in this “wooden-o,” safely projecting your voice can be a tricky predicament. However, I do not think that entails basing your whole performance off of this predicament. Yelling was probably our Lord Macbeth’s biggest weakness, as well as having the same speech pattern as Captain Kirk (original version, nerds). Each….line….would go so…..slowly….and…pain-…fully…slow. It’s a challenging role, I grant you. I can’t sit on my fanny and write this and not take into consideration the plight of a four hour performance. It doesn’t hurt that Macbeth was a handsome devil, but it doesn’t add to his performance. Unless there is a character needed to be extremely specifically cast, looks should never sway your idea about the person’s performance. Although I think I may have just summarized the opposite philosophy of modern day casting in Hollywood…interesting. Lady Macbeth was also a basket of mixed feelings for me. Both actors would have very good moments to distract from the overall sense of “meh” for their performance. I do agree with my peers in the note that she did not have the strength nor the sensuality that is usually associated with the character-maybe that was why the choice was made! Lady Macbeth started spiraling into the abyss way too soon for her to still seem in power over Macbeth. It’s sad that the two leads were the two weakest points of this show. They did have good moments, but not enough to prove that they were right for this role. Darn, if only everyone else in the cast had done a bad job, then it would’ve made them seem good! Too harsh? The rest of the ensemble was very good.
The boy. Now, I believe in Lady Macbeth’s first scene, she has a monologue mentioning an unborn child, or child rudely ripped from her womb. Something of that nature. This production chose to take the symbol of dead children=end of lineage quite literally. There was a small boy, probably five years old, that only looked and interacted with Lord or (mostly) Lady Macbeth. Most obviously this was the ghost of Lady Macbeth’s dead child, but as the play continued this boy became more like Macbeth’s inner image. Some of my peers think that he was completely unnecessary to the whole production. My view is that this was a choice that added more to the performance for me. Unfortunately the little boy got distracted by the prompters on each side of the stage, but come on, he was five! He never seemed like an unwelcome specter to Lady Macbeth. Quite the contrary, actually, every time she acknowledged him it was with great joy and loving glances. Because of how many (fake) dead babies they were throwing around on stage it made sense to me to have this phantom child haunting the parents. He became more like Macbeth to me towards the end of the show. It was the son and Macbeth separately playing a game mirroring each other right before battle. The presence of the son/ inner self reminded me of Macbeth’s childlike fear and guilt, which he suppresses under his vengeful rage.
The costumes were beautiful! All the suits seemed circa WWI era, however most of the women’s costumes were more late 19th century. Somewhat confusing, but it did not deter me from focusing on the performances.Not surprisingly red was a common color in this production, oh what a shock. It was a strange sick pleasure of mine that the designers used a fabric the same shade of the stage blood. There was something oddly satisfying about that. The Weird Sisters wore all black with veils and sneakers. Once again, although not “kosher” costuming, it did not take me away from the performance. Sometimes I wonder if people get bored during shows so they decide to look at every inch and decide what they don’t like about it. I tried so hard to not talk about it during intermission because I knew I might’ve been swayed to not enjoy the rest of the show. The stage combat choreography was good! It was a heavier blade than a rapier but I don’t believe it’s length constitutes it as a broadsword. Because I’m in a stage combat class now I was watching all of the hand-to-hand (people fighting without weapons) combat especially closely. I was disappointed with the anti-climatic fight between Macduff and Macbeth-it lacked drama. It didn’t seem like the final showdown between to men who’ve been waiting to fight each other for a long time. Before Macbeth was killed they ran off stage and switched into another scene.
Strangely enough there were four Weird Sisters in this production, instead of the usual three. The show opened with a movement sequence involving resurrection, decapitated body parts, and Gaelic singing.The Sisters used puppets to represent the ghosts of Macbeth’s victims. I really think there was a missed opportunity that the Sisters didn’t make an entrance out of the trap doors. Maybe it was too much of a safety scare? The Weird Sisters were cool, but not extremely memorable, unfortunately. The music composition for this show was perfect: eerie and harmonious. They usually repeated phrases of Gaelic (or Latin, but I’m pretty sure it was Gaelic) throughout their songs. I kept hearing the phrase “Alba” sung repeatedly, so I looked it up. Alba in Gaelic means “Scotland until judgement,”or, “Scotland forever.” I appreciated the use of more Celtic instruments in the compositions. I believe I even saw a hurdy gurdy (look it up, folks)!
There was one small part that made me shake my head in disappointment. During the Porter’s very funny monologue, she is pretending to talk to various guests of Hell when she opens the door. “Who’s there, in th’ other devil’s name? DONALD TRUMP! Faith, here’s an equivocator that could swear in both the scales against either scale, who committed treason enough for God’s sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven.” The direct topical political jab was way too much breaking the suspension of disbelief for me. It seemed like a scrambled or frantic way to grab a laugh from the audience. 1) That joke’s been made too many times to be actually funny anymore and 2) the American people are either ecstatic or extremely worried about this man, so don’t you realize we’re here to forget about him?
It seemed like there were so many things going right for this production, and yet I look back with a disdainful eye. It was like watching a several movies start at the same time and never catch up with each other. Unfortunately because of the weaknesses of the two leads it really damaged the performance. I will still think back with fond memories to this show. The title of this blog, you ask? Well, after the deaths of “thousands,” the whole cast jumped into the grounded Riverdance-style dance. The actors looked like they were having a ball, and so was I, but just slightly confused. I am aware of the Elizabethan tradition to end plays with dances, but it seemed particularly out of place for this production. Sorry, guys.