The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0361  Tuesday, 24 June 2008

From:          Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:          Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Subject:       Is This a Bunny I See Before Me


Trailer: http://www.stannswarehouse.org/macbeth_trailer.html

A Bunny, Too, Can Strut and Fret Upon This Stage
June 23, 2008
A Bunny, Too, Can Strut and Fret Upon This Stage

What's up with the guy in the rabbit suit?

This is not a question you expect to ask while watching "Macbeth."

But there he was, confoundingly, an energetic little fellow dressed as a fuzzy 
white rabbit - tall floppy ears, powder-puff tail and all - scrabbling away in 
front of a gray concrete wall in the TR Warszawa production "Macbeth: 2008," 
staged in the roofless tobacco factory near St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn. A 
giant video projection of a beautiful bald woman loomed above Rabbit Man. It 
looked like the bald woman was nibbling on a white chocolate bunny as she 
spouted her cryptic prophecies about Macbeth's future.

The funny bunny was not the only arrestingly peculiar image in this brash, 
aggressively violent and very free adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy. Lady 
Macbeth eagerly licks Duncan's blood from her husband's hand before straddling 
him, her back up against a refrigerator filled with Coke. Later she shows 
distinct evidence of bladder-control problems. (Too much Coke?) A woman in Elvis 
Presley drag dances madly with a gang of soldiers before being assaulted. A guy 
in a sequined Uncle Sam outfit performs a few magic tricks. And Banquo's ghost 
makes an even more startling entrance than usual, wearing combat boots, a dark 
glower and nothing else.

The blood-soaked circus is intermittently fun to watch - the "what next?" factor 
has its value as a suspense generator - but for all the lurid sex, gunfire and 
madcappery this Polish production, directed by Grzegorz Jarzyna, is ultimately 
tedious and uninvolving. It's "Macbeth" made over as a contemporary action 
movie, a "Macbeth" for those who think Shakespeare gummed up a great yarn with 
all that poetry when he could have been showing us the tasty murders he 
stubbornly kept offstage.

There is certainly much to admire on the level of spectacle here, and the 
scruffy outdoor auditorium is itself a spectacular site. From some seats you can 
see bits of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, although Mr. Jarzyna, his 
committed cast and his expert designers do all they can, and then some, to keep 
the focus on the visceral punch of the doings before us.

The set is a two-story concrete bunker specially built for the production. 
Supertitles are projected onto the structure, but the audience also wears 
headsets, so that the complex soundtrack - that's really the word for it - can 
be piped into our consciousnesses throughout. The coordination of images, sound 
and action is superb, and many sequences are staged simultaneously, creating a 
kind of split-screen effect. With its elaborate cinematic mise-en-scene and 
high-tech accoutrements, Mr. Jarzyna's "Macbeth" is almost the antithesis of the 
Polish theater iconoclast Jerzy Grotowski's "poor theater," although Mr. Jarzyna 
could be said to share with Grotowski the idea of a theatrical text as a mere 
taking-off point for a director's vision.

[ . . . ]

I should add that I am by no means categorically opposed to Shakespeare 
productions that employ liberal doses of sex and violence or multimedia effects. 
Rupert Goold's "Macbeth," seen on Broadway this year, effectively juiced up the 
play with macabre imagery without shortchanging its power as a tragedy of 
overweening ambition. (Coincidentally both productions end with a bald Macbeth 
literally losing his head.) Robert Falls's recent "King Lear" at the Goodman 
Theater in Chicago likewise used both contemporary history and extreme violence 
to channel the full horror of the play's vision.

But Mr. Jarzyna's "Macbeth" lacks the discipline and depth of those productions, 
despite the kinetic polish of its presentation. Sensation is pretty much all it 
has to offer. It will surely thrill audiences who get a charge from flashy 
innovation for its own sake. Others will probably view it as the quintessence of 
- well, I was hoping to get through this review without using the glib 
derogatory term for Continental experimentation. You probably know the epithet 
in question. Begins with a capital E and rhymes with succotash.

[ . . . ]

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

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