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Writer Gal

April 2017

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Writer Gal

Westerly Summer: Macbeth in the Park

So I've seen the Colonial Theatre's Macbeth twice now, once with the Dread Patty Templeton when she was visiting after Readercon, and once with mama, just this past Tuesday. The fight choreography was immeasurably better the second time around - more committed, more vocalized, faster, with accuracy and efficacy - which tells me the actors have been busting their chops every day before their performances. Good on them!

Both times I saw this I just reveled in being there. In the bowl of a Victorian Strolling Park, with actual stars overhead and lightning on the horizon, lounging on cushions while a troupe of blood-smeared entertainers with big swords descended into murder and psychosis for me. Both times I had only a few dollars to put into their silver urn, but I'd give more if I had it.

The first time we saw it, we met friends right away in the audience, and put our blankets by theirs. The second time, we met witches. Not actor witches, but the real kind who said, "Blessed be," and complimented my mother on her moonstone necklace. Insects abounded, but there were dragonflies to eat the greater part of the mosquitos, and anyway, it was worth it. One couple had brought two folding chairs, a little table, and their own candlelight. My mother said, "They've been doing this a while."

It has been so long since I've read or seen Macbeth that the first time through, I laughed out loud a lot for the sheer joy of phrasing. Maybe because it was early in the run or maybe because my concentration sat more lightly upon me, that first time I saw it, much of the play struck me as funny. I don't think it was supposed to, but there you have it. The wit of it caught my fancy, not the blood and the consequences. The second time the play's intent sank further, thrust truer.

Both nights Macduff made me cry.

JP Driscoll's performance was one of three stand-outs for me. Most of the play he was a solid, somber presence on the stage, but where he blazed out to my eyes, where he made the darkness descend, was the scene wherein Ross tells Macduff that his family has been slaughtered. His face. His face! He had the look of a man who's just been told his family has been slaughtered. That's harder to do than you'd think, I think, on a summer's night, on a simple set, with a spotlight on you. It was a moment of profound, astonishing grief.

Emily Trask's Lady Macbeth did me in on several levels. What I liked most about her was her fearless physicality. She used all levels of her body and all the space around - slamming down to one knee, or thrusting out her arms, as if she could manipulate the air around her, extend it like tentacles. She was a slight red-head, with moments of childlike enthusiasm that cracked her icy stillness. Lady Mac is used to being the smartest person she knows, and I think that showed through Trask's performance - a sort of scornful frustration at being so brilliant and so patronized that she would do everything in her power to have power over those who condescended to her. Oh, I liked it. I liked the way she smashed things.

The third performance that really scintillated for me was Michael Hinton's Angus/Murderer 2/Old Man. You know how sometimes there's one actor who just seems more alive on stage? Who pays attention to everything that's going on around him, who pretends SO HARD on stage, he bends reality to him, and you start seeing halls and heaths and haunts where none exist? The kind of actor who does the audience's work FOR them, because we don't even need to suspend our disbelief when he's believing so hard for us.

I guess that's mostly what I wanted to say about that. There are things I would have done differently as a director (not that I've directed anything ever), and things I'd've liked to try as an actor (like Nick Bottom, I'd play any part), but the play itself ignited my mind and I am always grateful for that.

Here are some lines I liked (from the first time I saw it), because obviously I can't just quote you the whole play…

Full of scorpions is my mind.

To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus.

Stars hide your fires.

I am reckless in what I do to spite the world.

Tis said they did eat each other.

Go take thy face hence.

Turn, hellhound, turn.

The cistern of my lust.

At least we'll die with harness on our back.

Approach the room and destroy your sight with a new gorgon.



I can easily imagine you saying "the scorpions of my mind" or "the cistern of my lust"! Or for that matter "Go take thy face hence"! That line seems made for you.

Maybe because it was early in the run or maybe because my concentration sat more lightly upon me, that first time I saw it, much of the play struck me as funny. I don't think it was supposed to, but there you have it. The wit of it caught my fancy, not the blood and the consequences. The second time the play's intent sank further, thrust truer.

This is marvelous, because it shows how the same work of art can speak to a person in different ways in different times. Duh! Should be obvious, but so often when we talk about something, I feel that we end up trying to chain it to one meaning. This is what it's all about, we seem to say. When really, look: same play, same viewer--different play. Maybe different viewer, in some ways. (Yikes! choke me in the shallow water before I get too deep.)

I must watch this YouTube video when I have time and earphones!

Yes, yes, I want to say ALL THE LINES. And I want to do a reading of Macbeth... In costume. Perhaps a Macbeth party. In an appropriate month. October-November. Possibly in the woods somewhere...
Sounds like a great production. Nice to have a strong, memorable Macduff - he often got overshadowed in the performances I've seen.
It was definitely a very fun production. Have you seen many? I hear there's a bully one with Ian McKellen. Must find!
Humm, three I believe. And, ohhh, that sounds shiny.
Well now you've done it: Quoted so extensively, named the play in full--we're all doomed! We'll all have to perform propitiating rituals.
Hey, does the ritual include performing the whole play in my purple parlor? 'Cause, ROCKIN!

Edited at 2012-07-27 09:21 pm (UTC)
Not that I've heard--it's usually things like turning around several times and spitting. . .
Have you seen Slings and Arrows? The song "Mackers" (the acceptable euphemism for the Scottish Play)lists some of them.
I have seen and loved them. They are now currently on my Amazon wishlist.

I figure, if Macbeth really needed a sensible euphemism, people would've stopped studying/performing/reviewing after all these centuries. I would not say so in a theatre, of course, before true actor-believers, because I don't wish to be disrespectful. But neither am I spitting and turning 'cause I wrote a blog. If Wikipedia can do it, I can do it. :)
Oh, this made me want to see the production! I want to know what kind of dragonflies they were, too, but never mind.

There was a time when I was in my twenties that the only Shakespeare plays I ever got the chance to see were Macbeth and Twelfth Night, so by now I've seen it so many times I occasionally skip an occasion. It's so short and intense; it's all about the darkness falling, and there is so very little light in it, that sometimes I am not up for it. I really liked what you said about Lady Macbeth. Sometimes she seems to have no reason for what she does at all, if they don't watch out.

Have you read Ngaio Marsh's Light Thickens? Her body of work is unfortunately tainted by various forms of racism and by various kinds of just WTF was she thinking; but this is her last novel and it's about a production of Macbeth. You almost forget you are reading a mystery novel amidst the larger mysteries.


Edited because apparently I cannot spell acronyms.

Edited at 2012-07-29 07:50 pm (UTC)
I wish I knew the names of dragonflies, so that I could tell you. The only dragonfly name I know is "golden glider" because my mother has one tattooed on her arm. She saw them often in Phoenix.

I met one Lady Mac once, back in high school (a red-headed actress named Wendy Robie who played the evil mother in People Under the Stairs) who talked about playing her like some kind of Pictish warrior woman, whose clan had been wiped out by Duncan. It was so long ago I don't remember, but she seemed to have gloried in being painted in spirals of blue woad and being fierce and bellicose, rather than ladylike.

I've not read any Marsh, but I like mysteries. Thank you for the suggestion!
Wow, that is hard to look up because of the comic-book character.

I think another name for it is the wandering glider, which means I probably saw my very first one on Friday. So if you only know one, that's a fine one to know.

Your Pictish Lady Macbeth sounds awesome. There's a novel by Dorothy Dunnett called King Hereafter, an enormous grim thing, in which that is just the position that the Lady Macbeth analog occupies. The novel is about (a version of) the historical Macbeth, so things do not play out exactly as they do in Shakespeare. It's much more explicitly feminist but really just awfully grim.

I love the Lymond books, but I only got through three Niccolo (something to look forward to, when I'm feeling brave again!), and never tried King Hereafter, although I was aware of it. Feminist and grim I can bear, I think... But perhaps I'll save it for some November when the whole world matches my mood.
I really love this play. This may not be a good thing.
Hell, why judge it good or bad? There's a lot to love. What struck me most this time was the... the... hmmn. The power of suggestion.

Edited at 2012-07-30 03:49 am (UTC)