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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: Ghost of Banquo
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0840. Wednesday, 25 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Tom Clayton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Oct 1995 10:32:30 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0836  Productions: *Mac.*
 
(2)     From:   Kurt Daw <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Oct 95 13:54:07 EDT
        Subj:   Re: Ghost of Banquo
 
(3)     From:   Clark Bowlen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Oct 1995 14:27:07 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0836  Productions: *Mac.*
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Clayton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Oct 1995 10:32:30 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0836  Productions: *Mac.*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0836  Productions: *Mac.*
 
Banquo's Ghost. Not to do an-audience visible ghost is a copout and has never
been effective in my experience of such productions. I know of no formula for
preventing laughter--sometimes little more than a release of tension--when a
visible Banquo is used, other than to treble efforts to avoid silliness of any
kind. One of the better ghosts I have seen materialized into his place at the
table through the trapdoor under it, an expedient often used, I imagine; he was
also suitably grizzly and horrifying, and Mac suitably horrified while the rest
at table looked up at Mac in shock, the easy means by which it is made obvious
that they don't see Banquo's ghost.
 
Happy haunting,
Tom
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kurt Daw <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Oct 95 13:54:07 EDT
Subject:        Re: Ghost of Banquo
 
In response to Albert Messeldine's request for thoughts about the Banquo scene
I have a few observations coming out of my own experience and some recent
conversation with members of "Shakespeare Examined Through Performance"
Institute currently meeting monthly at the Folger Library.
 
There are no easy answers to the question of how to stage this scene.
Certainly, Banquos sneaking on undecorously under tablecloths is the most
common, and laughable, solution.  Unfortunately, "invisible" Banquos don't
always alleviate this problem.  The challenge of making this scene dramatically
convincing with no Banquo present requires an actor of great skill and
intensity.  There is a recently available video version with Ian McKellen
playing Macbeth where you can see the "invisible" option handled with great
intelligence.  He holds out for a very long time in the scene, almost
underplaying it, until he suddenly erupts into a completely terrifying,
over-the-top, slobbering fit.  His insanity is more frightening than the ghost,
but it works.  The BBC version used the same option, but it doesn't work
because the performance is much less skillfully controlled.
 
As has been alluded to in recent posting to this list, Stacy Keach is currently
playing the scene in a production at the Shakespeare Theater in Washington,
D.C. against Edward Gero's very visible ghost.  When I saw it last week it did
seem to me that he was deliberately courting the laughter in the scene in
certain moments, which gave him quite marvelous control over the audience
response in other moments. Still, it didn't solve the problem of his ghost
slipping on not quite unnoticed.
 
How this scene is perceived has a great deal to do with the way the
supernatural elements are handled *throughout* the play.  Urge your director
into thinking through the problems of the witches, the floating dagger, the
visions, and this scene all at once.  Look for common denominators.  What seems
very odd to most audiences, and causes the laughter, is stage solutions for
which they have not been adequately prepared and have no "context."  As a
result what they "see" is not the ghost, but some middle-aged guy crawling
around on the floor covered in ketchup, or worse, some middle-aged guy
pretending that he sees some middle-aged guy crawling around on the floor...
You get the idea.
 
As a sign-off, let me say the most interesting solution of which I have heard,
is leaving the corpse of Banquo on-stage from the previous scene and letting
him simply stand-up and begin to "haunt" the play at the point his entrance is
marked in the Folio.  The theatricality of this can be thrilling, and it avoids
some of the "hokiness" of the usual solutions.
 
Best wishes with your production.  Please keep us posted about the progress of
the show.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clark Bowlen <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 25 Oct 1995 14:27:07 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0836  Productions: *Mac.*
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0836  Productions: *Mac.*
 
Re: Albert Misseldine's posting on Macbeth.
 
While I haven't yet tried it in a full production, we discovered in advanced
acting class scene work that a Scottish accent brought resonance and depth to
the language. Try it on "Tomorrow...."  I'm half convinced that Shakespeare
wrote it to be done in a Scottish accent--half convinced because I have no idea
what a Scottish accent sounded like at that time. We use David Alan Stern's
accent tapes from Dialect Accent Specialists, which are terrific for student
actors.
 

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