Friday, July 13, 2007

Macbeth, How You've Changed

The Washington Shakespeare Company is performing Macbeth with an all-nude cast.


Do the witches start signing “The Age of Aquarius” at the beginning? Have they reset the play in the 60s and turned it into a musical? I can kind of see where Hair and Macbeth can be intertwined. Come to think of it, no I can't.

So, I had to read the article and find out what the “artistic” reason was behind what seems like a stunt to shock audiences and fill theater seats. I admit to being intrigued.

I can kind of see where the director is coming from:

The play's director, Jose Carrasquillo, said he was inspired to create a radically different visual presentation after reading the same histories of the Scottish people that Shakespeare is believed to have read before writing Macbeth. They described "a really tribal, almost animallike clan and society," Carrasquillo said. "I thought it would be amazing to do a show with this feel in mind."

Gottcha. So far so good.

Then he focused on the three witches who open the play. Carrasquillo envisioned them as conjurers who actually bring the players in "Macbeth" to life. So in his version, the actors begin on stage as trees and come to life, naked and dirty, only after the witches make it so.

I like it. I can imagine the characters coming out as the witches say “Fair is foul, and foul is fair./Hover through the fog and filthy air.” That’s an interesting opening for the play, even though it really doesn’t have anything thing to do with the scene or the play. I mean, the witches are more a tool of foreshadowing and prophecy, not creation. But that’s why I’m a reader and not a director.

However, moving on:

At no point are any of the actors covered, except for some mudlike makeup on their bodies. And all 10 performers remain on stage for the entire performance.

I don’t get that. Granted, I tend to overanalyze things, but I think that even though tribal clans may have been the inspiration, Macbeth is too complex to be conveyed by some form of intelligent cavemen. I think that at their core, most of Shakespeare’s plays, besides being written to flatter some member of royalty, define humanity, but I don’t think the play has to be that stripped down (so to speak) to relate that to an audience.

Not that I have a problem watching naked people on stage. I wish I lived in Washington because I would like to see it and make comments from first-hand knowledge rather than assumptions. But alas, ‘tis not to be. For I the new Harry Potter will see.


Betty said...

There's always someone wanting to mess with Shakespeare. I'll bet the guys are all tempted to cover up when Lady Macbeth starts talking about "a dagger I see before me"!

Chelle Y. said...

I'd like to see Harry Potter nude. JUST KIDDING! (I could be thrown in jail for that comment, can't I? Oh no, he just turned 18).

susan said...

Oh man, I got all excited until I looked it up and saw that it was DC.

I still think it's more about filling the seats...

Michelle said...

Naked, eh? Um, yeah. Not sure that's necessary to convey the "animallike" behaviour of the clan. Basic cave clothes would convey the same idea and then we wouldn't have too everyone's bits throughout the performance.

Can you imagine being cast and calling your mom to say, "Mom! I've got a part in MacBeth!! -- Naked!!!"


Jay said...

To me there isn't any play ever written that can't be improved by the actors being naked.

But you're the resident Shakespeare expert though, so I'll take your word for it.

Tink said...

Chelle: Actually, Harry Potter DOES get nude! The actor who plays him is currently in a broadway play about a stable boy who falls in love with a horse. You think I'm lying, but I'm not. It creeped me out the first time I saw the poster for it.

her indoors said...

not even performing it in the nude would make me go and watch shakespeare sorry