Thursday, 5 April 2012

12 - Macbeth

Macbeth must easily be the Shakespeare play I have known the longest, if only by reputation. The image of the three witches crouched about their cauldron, mixing up "Eye of newt and toe of frog" certainly goes back to my childhood. Macbeth is a byword for tyranny and bloody advancement while at the same time Lady Macbeth is the epitome of the power behind the throne, goading and pushing her husband to "do the deed". Both the supernatural and the gory murder are just what kids love - look at 'Harry Potter', 'Twilight' or 'The Hunger Games' to see what attracts a young audience.

The production which had the most lasting impression on me was by a small touring company seen at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon in the mid eighties. They made memorable use of the character Rosse as an ‘Angel of Death’. He was portrayed as black robed, black gloved menace who was forever lurking on stage and directing others to murder. By handing him the additional lines of the odd nameless lord and of Seyton he managed to to be all sides at once setting them one on the other. His worst crime being that he warned Lady Macduff of her danger, then returned to kill her himself before audaciously delivering the news to Macduff. And, although you never saw it, you just knew he would be Banquo's mysterious ‘third’ murderer.

I personally only got one 'stab' at the dagger wielding Thane but it was to have profound effect. In my O-Level Drama class one week we had been set the task of learning duologues from Shakespaere one of which was act two scene two from Macbeth, the post murder scene. I dutifully learnt and performed my version with the partner who the teacher had chosen for me and so did everyone else. It was good but nothing special to my way of thinking and neither were any of the others. Except one girl doing the same scene with a diffenent patrenr seemed to shine.

I can't remember who instigated what happened next, the girl, myself or our teacher, but together we ran the scene again - no rehearsal, no nothing. We both acted our socks off and I still get chills when I think about it. Up until then I had enjoyed acting as a hobby or as a bit of fun but that one scene from Macbeth on that day was to change the way I felt about theatre and the path my life would lead for a very long time...

And Finally – I'm sorry but witch or no witch it can’t be easy to find Baboon’s blood in Scotland…