Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0842. Wednesday, 25 October 1995.
Date: Wednesday, 25 Oct 1995 11:27:44 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Productions: African Macbeth
Last spring I attended the single Las Vegas performance of the RSC's African
>Macbeth.< I emphatically agree with the Shakspere-an who said she felt that
the African setting was not coherently related to the play's themes. But the
attempt had dividends. First of all, the performance convened a racially mixed
audience that situated the Bard's high culture emphatically in the contemporary
urban U.S. Simply being a part of such an unusual audience stimulated one's
sense both of the possibilities of theatrically bridging a cultural and racial
divide, and of the tremendous distance that revival would have to traverse.
And the production's depiction of contemporary guerilla warfare and its
dispersal of whites among the supporters of Macbeth and of his opponents did
seem to gesture vaguely towards problems of neo-colonialism (military support
and intrigue, economic and technical dependence), although I and my
Shakespearean companion couldn't detect any significant point being made.
Two or three years ago there was an Off- Off-Broadway attempt to adapt
>Macbeth< to African-American middle-class ambitions, >Metropolitan Macbeth.<
Faithful to Shakespeare's text, the production depicted a promising black
employee murdering his benevolent white boss so he could step into his place.
With an exhortative Lady Macbeth ingeniously drawing on the rhythms and
energies of gospel, that production raised some interesting possibilities of
cultural fusion, though its quality was uneven and its crossing of cultures
usually either incongrous or (again) incoherent.
For those who do not dismiss such re-imaginings, these productions raise the
question not why is such re-situating possible, but why is it so difficult? It
may not just be the intransigence of the text, but also a measure of the
distance between races and cultures in the U. S. today and the limited contexts
in which Africa is perceived by the public. Much of course has been done with
The Tempest but, I wonder, with what else?