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September 2014, no. 364


September 2014, no. 364

Of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Macbeth seems the most prescient, apposite to a species rapidly running out of world. Upon hearing of the Witches’ prophecy, and resolving her course with chilling alacrity, Lady Macbeth invokes the nether realm of her potentialities:

Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full
Of direst cruelty.

Comments (2)

  • I agree with Dr Gibson that the business of criticizing theatre is a fraught one, no performance being wholly iterable. We do appear to have attended markedly different productions. Of the ensemble effect she describes I found little trace. Rather, as I have written, I perceived a deep stylistic dissonance between the casual register affected by the supporting cast, and Weaving’s often lyrical performance.
    The production’s soundscape, which I did indeed neglect to mention in the review, was affective in the same rudimentary sense that a bass groan reliably produces a sensation of menace, and a shrill howl evokes the presence of a storm. These frankly intuitive measures are the daily bread of student theatre, and in this play they elucidated the nuance of neither the character nor the world of Macbeth.
    I found Weaving’s performance neither examining nor examined, but I think that individual performance is where we must allow the widest margin for possible response, being so much a matter of personal instinct and presence.
    I used the word ‘quaint’ precisely, to describe the comparative tone of specific scenes in the fourth act, a tone which I complimented the production on exaggerating through the costuming of Malcolm in doublet, hose, and ruff. I did not intend to ascribe that quality to the production.
    There is indeed a difference between competence and ineptitude, and I believe I know which one I saw. But for the sake of clarity, is competence an achievement? Surely when one of the most harrowing tragedies in literature is performed by actors of training, experience, and international repute, amply funded furthermore by a national flagship company, competence is the utter minimum of virtue.
    Dr Gibson and I seem to have approached Macbeth with very different levels of expectation. I don’t think we go to the theatre to witness competence, I believe we do it to feel transport, ecstasy, pity and terror.
    Posted by Jonathan Dunk
    03 September 2014
  • It feels as if I experienced a very different production to the one reviewed here. Although the reviewer is knowledgeable of Shakespeare as his credentials are made clear, what seems to be overlooked is the ensemble effect and affect of a production that is inventive—not 'quaint'. The music in particular was astonishingly brilliant in its abstract spookiness. It operated as a key element in evoking a protracted mood of dread and anxiety. I realise that part of the beauty and loss of theatre is that every performance is different. My experience of the play was very different from the one reviewed here. There is also no doubt that Hugo Weaving was convincing in his intense examination of a life not so well lived. I did not see the 'Tomorrow' speech being 'spat out'—the mood was more defeatist...Lady Macbeth is also not 'simply bad'. She played her part competently but not badly. There is a difference.
    Posted by Dr Suzie Gibson
    29 August 2014

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