Wednesday, July 25, 2012

‘Witches of Macbeth’ adapted from William Shakespeare

25 July 2012

When we held the original consultative weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2009 at which we designed what became RSC Open Stages, we asked representatives of voluntary arts umbrella bodies to devise a number of options for the project. At the end of the weekend we voted on these options and, famously, ‘competition’ was the winner. We agreed that it was very important that there should be a competitive element to Open Stages and that there should be a route through the project for those amateur theatre groups who take part in competitive drama festivals. The two amateur performances at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon last Saturday as part of the RSC Open Stages National Showcase were winners from the Welsh Regional One-Act Festival and the All England Theatre Festival. Rather than having to shorten their productions for our RSC Open Stages National Showcase, these groups had prepared one-act plays that fitted the double-bill format perfectly. Both were versions of famous Shakespeare plays but they took very different approaches to creating their one-act versions.

‘Witches of Macbeth’ was a fifty-minute adaptation of the Scottish Play, consisting of 17 short scenes with greater emphasis on the role of the witches. In this production, by the Phoenix Theatre Company from Mold, North Wales, the witches were ever-present, lurking in the background in every scene. At first this reminded me of Tom Stoppard’s ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’ but the witches were far from peripheral to this story. They hovered, unseen, beside Lady Macbeth, putting thoughts into her head and words in her mouth. When Macbeth dispatched assassins to kill Macduff’s wife and children it was the witches he sent. The Weird Sisters were constantly moulding the story and shaping the Macbeths’ destiny.

As well as the witches, the actors playing Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were very strong. When she said “give me the daggers” it was an exclamation of genuine exasperation with her husband. Phoenix Theatre Company coped well with the vertiginously sloping set of ‘A Soldier In Every Son – The Rise of the Aztecs’ which dominated the stage of the Swan Theatre, making it seem like it had been designed for them, The Swan was almost full and there was a great atmosphere. ‘Witches of Macbeth’ was excellent, rattling through the story without ever feeling rushed. 

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