I just came back from my son's school's first play, an evening showing of MacBeth. Owain was too young to be in it, but we were both eager to attend.
The witches foremost should be commended in this production, they were mesmerizing in the ways they moved around each other and the voices that they used. I was impressed at that imagination, and at the voices. The girls spoke in very different voices than their own, it was apparent to me that they had considered these witches and really brought them to life. I would describe the voices they chose as hazy and harpy, with some munchkin from the Wizard of Oz and a lot of Karen Walker from the tv show Will & Grace. Fantastic.
But my favorite parts of the play are still Lady MacBeth's Out, Out, Damn Spot and the Tomorrow speech. Lady Macbeth was absolutely ethereal, and moved like a ghost. MacBeth was played with a grim good humour that I would more often associate with Hamlet than MacBeth, capable of flashes of anger but perhaps a shade more toward bemused that was necessary. MacBeth is a greedy jackass capable of evil. Having said that, it is a hard part to find inside yourself for any actor with decades of professional experience and I liked the MacBeth he came up with. The tomorrow speech was the best part :
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
The whole play, to me, is the fact that MacBeth continually disappoints himself as a human being so much that these words mean something. That's why they keep performing Shakespeare, I think, year after year here. Because Shakespeare lets us sit and contemplate, or remember the times in our lives that would make the Tomorrow speech true. Sometimes life feels like that tale told by an idiot.
The length of time for the play was great. I felt that it was a pretty good combination of narrative and scenes. I did find the narrative probably unnecessarily moralizing and too heavy an annotation on words that need no adornment except the active engagement of the speaker. I thought making the scenes shorter but with greater preparation time, so that, for instance, the Tomorrow speech lines above are the only lines in that scene, you might get good concentrated fifteen second performances. A sketch show with deaths, murders, despair and a crazy soap lady!
I found the scenery oddly effective. Having not been involved in producing despite offering, I was prepared to hate it but I did not. The music was evocative. The battle scene at the end really came alive. It made me see that these kids could move really effectively and use the space imaginatively, the battle was a wonderful picture and everyone really terrific. And a special shout out to every backstage scream, which I thought were so full of life! I loved them.
The edges weren't very sharp, but were fairly well organized and the actors stayed in the round watching the performance. I thought that was effective. And the slight blur of when they began and the post-bow mayhem are actually very much considered wonderful studies in themselves, about the audience and their engagement, and the relationship that the audience has with the actors. And the audience, the parents, were so full of love and support. I am not that generous a person so I thought they were being a little soft, except that the set and the battle scene and the witches and the blonde servant of Lady MacBeth who cared so tenderly about her, they all actually did deserve their wild applause.