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Munich based Residenz Theater has kneeled deeply into blood at the beginning of the year. January premiere of Macbeth is a dynamical gem, visually so compelling it thrives to be a witness with every sense available. Alas, there are spots yet to be seen.
As Borges would say it takes only two mirrors to create a labyrinth we are in for a frightful multitude with the Scottish drama. First, there was darkness. Then a shot of light reveals men drenched in blood and mist, their backs turned to one another, hunched in an almost penitent circle of trust. Here they stand, warriors of tomorrow, heaving a lonesome silence where the battle is lost and won. Red skin, heavy breathing, the immediacy of expressionism is acute. This production’s staging is immaculate as both a metaphorical device and a projection of personality.
Namely, Kott’s wheel is here used in a superb manner, a metaphysical image of mind.The stage upon a stage is a thick cement quadrat from whence actors are jumping off and on, rolled over in agony, raped and left to be consumed. The wheel acts gratefully as an army of insinuations. It is hero’s mind, his scale of flesh, scope of tremor, his soul-shaking nightmare, his guilt revived by action.The stage moves, shifts on an unknown axis, our hero walking on and on into a feverish consciousness harvesting limbs. This is the tragedy set in reverse. The highest point of start for Macbeth will be the starting tumble to the lowest pit of Hell. Peace is banished, probably murdered and bleeding. The stage however remains a most peculiar invention, blending a Nietzschean returning occurence with the fluency of plot. The Earth is a flat circle.
Macbeth is the play of insecurities, rumor and defenselessness. To such extent goes Shakespeare to paint an everlastingly unstable world where things work in irony against our mortal beings that, naturally, our thoughts become mortal too. Sharp contrast binds us to our grief and helplessly we watch how, unparalleled by any other hero, Macbeth is doomed by doing more, far more than even Coriolanus or Richard III. His initial nature is gloomed by hearfelt urging of his wife but afterwards the doing is a crave for security, a crave to feel the balance of the unison. Alas for the shifting core of the Earth escaping his move. Simplicity so functional as this inscenation is intelligence put to use. Here, at first, men washing each other’s backs in mutual agony of an aftermath, some bamboo sticks scattered between them as a helping hand and, perhaps, a visual labyrinth. Between a thought and memory lies present action and here a grey glow of exhaustion unveils warriors wearing only blood and modern-cut suits. It is a well-endowed details. What other story is so well received with men of all nations? Macbeth is cut to match our own mind, our imagination, our fearing image of self. The universe of Macbeth, bereft as it might be of any spiritual or moral solace is still with human means. This is a carnal universe, rooted deeply in will, a subject to imagination, burned by action and shaken mercilessly without resurrection.
Horror insinuated uttered on stage or insinuated aggravates us but this is the play of tension and terror set alight. Light cups them beautifully, darkness births them painful. Witches are spider-like creatures covered with thick white webs, resting their hands on sticks and their legs on men’s arms. Thus continues the splitting of the world and singularity, as it has begun with the first utterance of Macbeth ( So foul and fair a day I have not seen). It has a connotation of a Norse origin, a world shown upon a world, with their allseing minds resting on unstable backs full of wounds. Their timing metaphor is put to use but the horror of appearance is somewhat hanging on a balance. It would be fitting to give them a more human form, namely more of an approach done by Trevor Nunn’s 1979 production or,for that matter, the superb execution by Jed Kurzel in 2015 movie version. Their message, weirdly timed by three .Ominous presence shakes every second, superbly heightened by lights and distorted string music. Bloodshed is embodied. Colors and a sword balanced on a finger saturate and permeate the audience and we are left breathless by its seizing powers. Fear and uncertainty surely go hand in hand with this production, our eyes captivated. As Knight suggests, there is no other production so bent on fusing the protagonist with plot, creating a living reality of hero's’ mind and environment, bridged by action. Macbeth with imagination slaughtering reason climbs the axis, the, but time melts in swift uncertainty and irony. He cannot live in his mind, he cannot live in the physical world. The suffering is partially due to his inability to concord with his original motive, he cannot bear it but he will bare his resolution onwards. What results is his perpetual estrangement. With less intelligence than Hamlet but more imagination, he is exiled from the Universe he belonged to at the beginning.
More than any other work Macbeth can evolve through any minimalistic solution,spatially fit to endure the bereaving effects, so often produced when directors wish to refine with a twist. Thus the production has leaned far too much on the physicality and alacrity of the piece, not unjustly but quite superficially so.
Sexuality is by no means sub textual, Macbeth’s bloody hands smear her satin gown most wonderfully, and for a play of such plot-wise quality, it is but another asset. We can indulge in the coaxing and fleeting dominance yet even their menage-a-death is doomed by far too plain interpretations They are an unparalleled match and unquestionably they lean on each other fully, but the progression of doom sharpens the estrangement. Justly so, as Lady Macbeth never understood the reign, her mind was lovely bent on the grandeur her husband deserves. Lady Macbeth, all will and ferocity in the first hour, is a worthy cast but she is played almost intuitively, with a tone of proleptic doom-here is a woman who is to go mad. Here is a passionate, ambitious woman, a devoted wife, a realistic spirit with redundant imagination, with a letter in her hands and already she laughs uncontrollably. She is a splendor incarnated, almost unhealthily slim in a nightgown, rolling and raging on stage.It is as if the director, aware of their talent, has given them freedom to reign instinctively. But where a better guidance would dig deeper, their instinct led them to a foreseeable end, extending only to what we can find in schoolbooks. Lady Macbeth is thus from the beginning a woman who might go mad. Thoroughly enjoyable to watch as his mate,Macbeth is praiseful and thoughtful, imagination is his curse, he his own Devil and magistrate but his doubts and original conflits, peer to Hamlet’s or Richard III are left to wander around him. The troop as a whole has a lot of stamina but they lack coherence of a unified interpretation. Timelessness and lack of sleep are thus barely felt as the strength urges them both on. The magnitude of evil preying on Macbeth’s soul is well shaded in his acting. They are both, as characters, consumed by their own original nature but since their deeds (the first joined, others his sole doings) are completely thrusting them out of equilibrium, what follows is a deep dark full of clustering wreckage. Macbeth’s guilt is paralleled only with Hamlet. They both remember only too well.Still, toning with aforementioned visuality, it is a gratifying experience.
Upon the pronunciation by Weird sister Future we face our unknown heroine, dripping with blood and revolted without measure. As an ancient choir, she explains the action in howling rage, completely out of tune with and is later revealed as Lady Macduff.Her sole scene before rape and slaughter begins with her silent protest as she sits and waves hands in rhythm. If a move was to show a resilient spirit of the victim about to be murdered with her kin, one might ask why is she weak? Her purity contrasts so highly with suffocating pain of leading couple that she is already having a silver lining in our mind. The double usage of actress’ image is perhaps not the wisest solution, though the smearing of Macbeth’s face with her blood can be seen as a portrayal of a future wound.
Music, still, remains another beating accuracy of this production. In an eerie tempo everything trembles in various degrees of fear and sleeplessness. Director’s love for dancing peculiarly comes across as the leading pair turns and churns in a gruesome interlude that is both their last moment of private happiness and their ultimate delusion. Lust will have its blood.It should be mentioned here how modernization, however metaphorical and fit, cannot always serve well. After a pause, Macduff is introduced playing a silent acoustic version of Hurt by Nine Inch Nails. Twists of this nature should be cautiously used.
Denuded of extra elements, everything that is used by the actors or is resting in light immediately catches our attention. Bamboo sticks serve as a snake-like panoptic vision of mind. Lady Macbeth will linger around them in seductive swirls. A sword dug deep in the ground clutches freely as a silent pendulum. Lady Macbeth, in her final scene, slits her wrists in a swift, decisive move. Lady Macduff mirror her somewhat before with a slow, sexual slitting of neck, a being of blood. The shining metal pierces us with its immaculate acquiescence. Macduff’s son plays with a cardboard puppet. These elements are almost holy with their gravity that compels the action onward.
Here I dare utter an utmost praise for a scene of murdering the King as he lays in the arms of his future murderer, the most perfect use of ironical safety I have witnessed. A silent knowledge of great Shakespearean actors is their ultimate subltetx. Indeed, the production is full of such simple solutions that work on many layers; Lady Macbeth chiming What shall we do with the drunken (Duncan) sailor to her evenly exhausted husband after the feast is done, the balancing of a blade on an index finger, lead actor’s hopeless and superbly executed final act (as the fifth act has found many a man slain by change of occurrences). The dynamic here is hypnotic and so are the pauses. The silence is imperative in theatre as an aid and a guillotine. Here, fortunately, we speak of immersion so well executed it makes us break with sweat. Our three seconds of silence after our hero learns the Forest moves are the measure of human end.
When I read Peter Brook’s The Shifting Point, I knew I had found an answer to an overwhelming question. The question of whether or not we are good enough (as actors or as he’d put it, instruments), which has been on my mind for a while, he retorted with the reasonable line: “For that we have to know what are the instruments for? The instruments are used to tell those truths which would otherwise remain untold.” It chimed as a prayer. Truth that would otherwise remain untold.
A woman asked Ben Kingsley after his Hamlet performance how did he know about her? This knowledge can be asserted only to Shakespeare.Theatre is not made purely for entertainment. We need to know ourselves but we also need to be consoled in our loneliness. We need to hear the “I know” that will help us endure the present moment and time stomping on. As aforementioned, production wise, his plays evolve unsurpassed by directorial changes. It is impossible to mutilate such poetry even with execution met by disapproval from critique. It is a revising tool of intimacy, viscerally ubiquitous.
There is a reverence we owe to everything in human shape, as Godwin would say. Moreover so I dare extend the same reverence to the part of our nature with all demons counted, brim full with grace and dark blood. One forgets not how graceful alliances break under the promises of a morrow. Reverence is less that one of pity, certainly not the one of catharsis, if I am to speak of the exiting theatre after seeing Macbeth. It is a humility of a being, a lightning of fear burned by season’s changes, an awareness stemming after being grasped by a deed so great it pains us to be consumed by its truth.. Truth, the totality of being will have its share unmoved by age or moral and lies reverence, so that even hell might be paired with beauty. And with Macbeth, one would avert the gaze but is reminded, all sweeps into dust, all too true even with eyes. Men and women, time, space, Hell and Heaven will reach the summit and then be thrown into an abyss of the coming moment where the split and barren universe cannot be undone. We condole but with a shivering womb we know what is left. The rest is silence, blood and fear.