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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: September ::
Re: Globe Macbeth
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2086  Monday, 2 September 2001

[1]     From:   Steve Roth <
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        Date:   Friday, 31 Aug 2001 07:53:24 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2082 Globe Macbeth

[2]     From:   James Doherty <
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        Date:   Friday, 31 Aug 2001 11:11:35 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2082 Globe Macbeth


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Roth <
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Date:           Friday, 31 Aug 2001 07:53:24 -0700
Subject: 12.2082 Globe Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2082 Globe Macbeth

>From:           Clifford Stetner <
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>
>I didn't understand the point of
>the tuxedoes and jazz dancing.  I went to the Globe hoping to get a
>sense of the original performance (I was already familiar with the
>plot).  Unlike Cymbeline for which I paid 9 pounds for an obstructed
>view which was unobstructed and loved, I paid 20 pounds for an
>unobstructed view which was very obstructed for Macbeth which I
>loathed.

I more than agree. Macbeth at the Globe was truly execrable. See below
for an explanation of the dancing conceit.

I saw Cymbeline in July with my family (wife and kids, 8 and 9), and we
all loved it. (Front row, upper gallery, far left, spitting distance
above the stage--great location.) It was a remarkable theater
experience, really taking advantage of the Globe's intimacy with a
spirit of generosity and joy rarely exhibited when lights tyrannize the
blocking and exclude the audience. Highly recommended, and kudos to Mike
Alfreds and Mark Rylance.

My next experience was seeing Macbeth at the Globe in August. Same
seating, one bay farther left. I had read no reviews (I have since), so
my response within minutes, and throughout, of contempt and disdain, was
unsullied by the opinions of others. The experience of that production
was the complete antithesis of Cymbeline, and epitomized what is wrong
with much theatre today (Shakespeare and otherwise). Macbeth was
completely lacking in the authenticity that the Globe justifiably revels
in. (And by that I don't mean the "merry old England" represented by the
unplastered timbers; I mean the kind of honesty and authenticity that is
truly attainable and worth striving for.)

That Macbeth production failed to take advantage of the very things that
make Shakespeare and the Globe great. It was a superficial, effete, over
choreographed production that might have flown with the "sophisticated"
audience in a West-End Brooke-box It displayed none of the unblocked
organic joy revealed in Cymbeline, a mood that transmitted itself to the
audience and reflected back into the production.

The production's tenuous conceit (I'm being charitable here)-the witches
singing and dancing, telegraphed out into the entire play-is based on
the *very portions* of the play that were written not by Shakespeare,
but by Middleton, and which are so obviously alien to its whole spirit
and character. Two spurious and inept passages were used to pollute the
whole play.

It's like the director had no concern for his text, and didn't even
think about the "space" (literal and figurative) in which he was
working. The lame exits and entrances through the pit were a sad display
of his longing for a modern theatre space, and the rigidity of the whole
production bespoke his complete failure to understand or care for the
theatre he was working in, its spirit, and its audience.

This was confirmed when I went to the Talking Theatre session after the
show. The actors said of the director (this is a direct quote): "I don't
think he really knew what he wanted. I think he just wanted to do
something different." (So he ended up playing with chairs: "hey, we
workshopped it and that's what we came up with!")

It's mind-boggling that the director could have left his actors so
unclear as to what they were trying to do, despite the excellent
introduction to the character of the Globe which they described having
received from Mark Rylance in their first week.

They also commented that they quickly discovered in preview that they
weren't playing to the space, and tried to make adjustments. But the
inherent design of the production made it impossible to do more than
move a few speeches and talk to the upper galleries. When the bad
reviews hit, we were told, he came back for some tweaking, but with his
heels dug in. He was even more insistent on his "vision" than before.

In trying to do something "different," he in fact gave us more of the
same old: grab a simplistic conceit and run with it, no matter that it's
ill conceived and at odds with the text and the space. It's much less
taxing on the director, not requiring real engagement with a living
audience. It may (?) briefly impress others in the theatre community,
but it is not there for the people who count.

The director certainly succeeded in his petty goal, as evidenced by the
concluding comment from the woman sitting next to me (from Chicago, she
had directed Macbeth a year back): "Well," she said, "that was
different."

This production was a violation of the text, a violation of the space,
and-I mean this in its most penetrating sense-a violation of the
audience.

Steve
http://princehamlet.com

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Doherty <
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Date:           Friday, 31 Aug 2001 11:11:35 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.2082 Globe Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2082 Globe Macbeth

I saw the Globe's Macbeth three weeks ago. I was very disappointed. The
style of the production did not serve this play. Rather, it was
Shakespeare forced to serve the director's style.

Macbeth is a play about murder and it's consequences.  What moves are
the hands of the murderers, then the blood that flows from the victims
(whose deaths are represented by a small stone dropping into a metal
pail, you can barely hear the click), then the consequent dripping of
this very blood onto the murderers themselves. The blood in this
production is flimsily represented by gold tinsel.

The director's heavy-handed 'tuxedo' style greatly limited the actors as
well. In eveningwear, only appropriate to an evening ball, the actors
dance away from the play's central ideas. Performances were flat.  I'd
have had a much better time watching penguins.  They'd have been happier
'actors' and far more joyful to watch -- though a far greater expense
than their poorly paid counterparts.

Shakespeare's plays can, and should, be presented in a myriad of ways*.
However, every producer, director, and actor's main focus must be to
serve the play - NOT to use the play for a personal agenda.

J. Doherty
NYC

* Having said the above, the Globe was built to represent almost exactly
the original theater. I wish Macbeth and/or Cymbeline were done 'almost
exactly' as they may have been presented in Shakespeare's day.

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