festival: vs macbeth

vs macbethToday was mostly taken up with going to see Vs Macbeth... Ma had her haircut this morning, so I went shopping on my own, then came back here and essentially waited around.

Once she got here we headed down to Norwood, grabbed a quick bite to eat and then went to The Odeon.

I will admit to being a little miffed by The Odeon staff... normally theatre staff take the stub at the end of a ticket and give you the rest of it back... that's the way it's been all the way through the Fringe, and even at the movies. But at The Odeon they took the whole ticket. Not happy.

Oddly enough the show was General Admission, so we were able to get a seat right in the front row, reasonably close to the centre.

As I've mentioned before, I have an odd connection with Macbeth... but this was something else entirely.

To quote from the program...
Vs Macbeth inverts what we would normally do in a rehearsal (to remove errors) and instead restages every accident from our own rehearsal, as well as some significant incidents from the play's 400-year history of performance.
The staging of the play is outstanding... we walked in to essentially a bare/industrial looking stage complete with black and yellow warning tape on the floor, an electric guitarist (David Heinrich) off to one side, pieces of staging off to one side and three female "ushers" in orange security vests directing people.

The three witches (Aliro Zavarace, Ursula Mills & Zindi Okenyo) were already on stage (I also love it when there's a male witch amongst the three... and these three looked like they'd come straight out of a dance party), performing something in the middle of the stage and it took me a while to work out that they weren't just doing random movements, they were repeating the same set of movements over and over and over again... which essentially felt like they were casting a spell, over the play, over the audience, over the actors. It was also a sequence that resonated again right at the end of the play and made all the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

And it turned out that the three ushers were actually actors... and right before the play started, they walked up and down the ends of the rows and started Chinese Whispers going through the audience. The front row managed three before the play started, but the last one ended with me after a giant crash of thunder.

The entire play has something of an industrial/modern/post apocalypse feel about it... the costume palate is totally muted, all grey and black... the "armour" is a cross between motorcycle gear and paintball/skirmish gear... and actually the swords of the play have been replaced with paintball guns.

The first time one of the "rehearsal errors" occurs it's a tiny bit disconcerting, they essentially break character, but after a while it all becomes part of the play.

They also essentially demolish the set as the play progresses, mostly due to incidents from the play's history.

On top of the fantastic staging, the acting is also outstanding...

I saw Cameron Goodall (Macbeth) once before and was impressed with him then... after today, you can ramp that up by a factor of about 10, he's exceptional. Essentially Macbeth starts the play in reasonable grip of his sanity and spends the rest of the time losing his mind... and Goodall portrays that brilliantly. Equally good is his Lady Macbeth, Amber McMahon... I'm usually fond of the Lady M character, she's strong and twisted and goes spectacularly nuts, and you could quite easily say that even more than the witches, she's the character that sets everything in motion. And Amber brings all of that... there's a scene right after the "Banqo Banquet" where the Macbeths are just sitting there and every emotion their characters are feeling are written over their faces.

While everyone performed fantastically, the other major standouts had to be the sadly underused Zindzi Okenyo when she switched from witch to Lady MacDuff... she was frankly heart wrenching. And keeping it in the family, Tahki Saul as MacDuff was equally powerful.

My only complaint is a very small one, and that's because I think they compressed some of the action to take place between different characters, so it was occasionally difficult to keep track of who was supposed to be who. But that wasn't enough to decrease my enjoyment of the play (and in fact it's often the case that you lose track of who's who in Shakespeare plays... or is that just me?).

The show opens in Sydney in a couple of weeks, and I strongly suggest either catching it here in Adelaide before it goes, or heading down to the Sydney Theatre Company and catching it there.

Afterwards we headed up the street to get some dinner, and happened to run into J... one of those "of all the people in all the world" moments really...

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