Review: Shakespeare & Company’s Macbeth

The graphic from Shakespeare and Co.'s New England tour poster

Theatre superstition has it that it’s bad luck to say “Macbeth” in a theatre. Perhaps this is why I cannot give Shakespeare and Company’s educational touring production of The Scottish Play a completely positive review. During the post-show Q & A session, one of the company’s six actors asked students if attending plays made them “feel alive.” Not many stood up. Surprised by some of my peers’ responses, I took an informal poll and discovered that many stayed seated because they thought he was talking about the production just concluded. Although it was certainly not dead, it did lack life in some respects.

I must give credit and respect to the six actors, however. All except one (playing the titular role) played at least two different parts. It was difficult to pull off. Of particular note was the performance by St. Luke’s alumnus Doug Seldin ‘04 who played Banquo, among other characters. His physicality was impressive throughout the entire show and he never lost his energy. His vaudevillian antics at one point drew mixed reactions: Lauren Pendo ’12 commented that high school students are “too old for knock-knock jokes,” but Alex Robertson ’13 disagreed, saying that “the utilization of audience participation to firmly establish the Porter character’s status as comic relief in the otherwise grim play was clever and well-executed.” We sought out the expert opinion of Mrs. Doran, who said that his actions were historically accurate to what Shakespeare’s plays would have been like at the Globe: “People didn’t sit there respectfully! Theatre was bawdy and crazy, with clown like people and people shouting out epithets!”

Two closely-related aspects of the production troubled me: technique and treatment. There was almost no voice modulation between characters. Theatre student Emma Rushton ’12 commented that “it was difficult to tell which character was which because they all just sounded angry the whole time.” The only true way to differentiate between them was costume differences. Even with the changes, it was incredibly hard to follow, despite the majority of the high school that has had to read Macbeth in either Doran or Flachs’ English classes.

As far as treatment goes, I agree with the senior who commented “they were giving us Shakespeare as if we had never come into contact with it before.” Perhaps the company is more well accustomed to working with younger students (one of the actors commented that they had just put on the “cutest 3rd grade version of Hamlet ever seen”), because some of us felt that the post-performance discussion was slightly “low-pitched.”

While this particular performance met with less enthusiasm from the student body than might have been hoped, it is important to realize why we sat through it in the first place. In mainstream education, indeed, the arts are often marginalized. It is refreshing to see performance arts placed front and center. And even though the students may have been unhappy with the specifics, exposure and education are important. We are lucky that we’re able to appreciate the arts at all, and in different ways. By bringing us Macbeth, a play that every sophomore student reads, the school allows us to discuss the production on its merits in a real way, be it positive or negative.

Emily Bergmann, Staff Writer

Posted by on April 10, 2012. Filed under Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry