Tonight I made one of those “why did I figure this out right before I leave town?” discoveries. Event of the evening was the Upstate Shakespeare Festival’s production of Macbeth.
They perform in an amphitheatre (there’s that word again…once again, we really mean “outdoor theatre”) in a gorgeous park right on the Reedy River in downtown Greenville. The weather was great tonight, so the setting was a huge plus. And as the title suggests, the price was pretty sweet, too, though it’s considered polite to offer a donation.
The show itself was well done — in general, Greenville seems to do very well by the arts for a city of its size. Though definately amateur actors, by and large, they were good amateur actors. (I don’t mean to sound snobby when I say that. Keep in mind that the other Macbeths I’ve seen have been a the ASF and the RSC; I would love to be in this sort of production at some point.)
I always get caught up in the witches in Macbeth – partly because I was one when we tweaked 1.2 for that project in 10th grade, but also because there are so many neat things a director can do with them in terms of design and concept. At the ASF, each witch was visibly handicapped in some way, emphasizing that they were outsiders from society. One was blind, one had a bad leg, and one had something wrong with her arms. That was cool.
Tonight, the witches were given a motive, which made all sorts of things interesting. The play opens with a battle, so the witches were shown to be mourning the death of the play’s first victim (Person X), who had just been killed in front of our eyes by Macbeth and his men.
(Tangent: There was a lot of killing-in-front-of-our-eyes tonight. Am reminded how much I like the subtle suggestiveness of the doomed person getting dragged offstage just before the fatal blow falls.)
Anyway, that brief twist at the beginning set the whole play to be about the witches’ revenge on Macbeth and their manipulation of his life. Which then helps him — suddenly he has an excuse for going bonkers and murderous: they’re almost always on stage, watching, constantly working on him, instead of just putting a thought in his mind and leaving it to fester. Makes him less culpable, perhaps.
Macbeth himself was quite good, as was Lady M., though she could get a bit screechy — the sleepwalking scene was all screechy. I worried a bit about her and one or two of the witches in that regard: they were doing a lot of screechign and rasping and growling, and sometimes it sounded painful. As in, will-make-you-hoarse-and-hurt-your-voice painful. Damn, this is getting to be full of all kinds of patronizing. Well, let’s go out with a bang, then: Malcolm, the Scottish prince who saves the day and is crowned at the end, sounded like he’d wandered out of the hills of West Virginia. He seemed to be trying to change his accent, but if he had too much to say, he slipped into Hillbilly. A bit distracting….yet overall, a fine evening.
For those who might be in town, I hear they are doing Love’s Labors Lost in July/August, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in October (so it’s not even all Shakespeare). Free storytime in the park! Can you ask for more?