The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1018 Thursday, 11 May 2000.
Date: Wednesday, 10 May 2000 16:23:41 -0400
Subject: Shakespeare's Skum Macbeth, Laughing at the Ghost and Killing
I took Mariann Woodward up on her invitation to see the Shakespeare's
Skum Version of Macbeth following the recent Baltimore production. I
must say, it makes a nice combination and I wonder if many of the other
plays might benefit from such a reinterpretation at the conclusion. Of
course, the fact that the Baltimore production was kind of luke-warm
only heightened the need for a little levity at the conclusion. I also
wonder if the combination of the play with its comic short version might
also serve some instructional purpose, luring the less-Shakespeare
inclined into the production.
I won't say much about the Baltimore production, since I believe it has
already closed. The three witches also played servants in the house of
Macbeth, so they had an "always around" sort of lingering presence.
Less obviously, they also doubled all of the other female roles, as well
as young Macduff and represented the strength of the cast. The male
parts seemed cast to assure that the characters looked good in their
sleeveless leather jerkins. Their delivery had a kind of hyperactive
coked-up weaselyness that did not work for me. The set was simple but
very cool, and the magic handled deftly. It was a very small cast, and
some concessions had to be made; Malcolm and Donalbain are conflated and
Lord Lennox plays the third murderer, without a costume change, which
left me very confused.
Many years ago, I complained about the laughter during Banquo's
appearances at the banquet. I felt that laughter was inappropriate
during this scene of high horror and that the better production would
emphasize that horror. On the other hand, the comic elements of Macbeth
flipping out about a ghost no one else sees are hard to deny and once
again there was laughter in this production. So I wonder if anyone has
seem a production where the scene was more horrific than comic? Or has
it ever been attempted without the ghost; where the audience, like the
folks attending the banquet, cannot see what Macbeth sees and he does,
in fact, and is this less comic?
IF THE BALTIMORE PRODUCTION IS STILL RUNNING AND YOU PLAN TO SEE IT,
PLEASE SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH. The absolutely most intriguing production
decision in the production occurs at Macduff's castle, with Lady Macduff
and her son (both played again by the witches). Lady Macduff carries a
small bundle clearly representing a baby; it doesn't coo and you don't
see any arms or legs, but it's a baby. During the melee, the baby is
taken from her, she and her son are killed and they are dragged off in
different directions. All that is left is one murderer, with the
bundle, standing with his back towards us. I had heard it was a bloody
show, and fully expected something gruesome. Instead there is a sudden
twist of his hands and a sharp audible crack of the baby's neck,
followed by the low painful groan of the audience. It is a heart
stopping moment, but I haven't figured out if I think it is great
theater, or cheap manipulation.