I‘m excited to be chronicling Union House Theatre’s Macbeth over the next few months as they progress through rehearsals before taking to the stage in early September. Directed by Petra Kalive, it is planned to be performed in loosely modern, urban dress, and create an audibly evocative world where order battles with chaos.
Even with Macbeth being one of the shorter plays, many were surprised by the impressively short run time of the first reading. The abridged script contains some interestingly merged scenes, rapidly advancing the pace of the plot and altering how some characters interact with each-other. With one male witch and female Macduff, Ross, Seyton, Lennox and Fleance, it’s interesting to see the gender dynamics of the playscript being altered.
Despite Petra’s insistence to ignore the alleged ‘curse’ surrounding the play, the first rehearsal did feature several injured cast members (though from prior to the show). Now into the second week of rehearsals the ‘curse’ seems dormant, and the wealth of nicknames for Macbeth (‘Wee Mac’ and ‘Mac-beath’ being some of my favourites) are less paranoia and more punning and compulsive Aussie nicknaming.
Several members of the cast and crew also performed in MUSC’s recent Henry IV Part I, and despite the difference in genre, Macbeth shares far more similarities with the histories than I’d expected: an obsession with kingship, fierce battles, and ambitious characters struggling through treachery and regret, in addition to both being drawn from historical sources.
But their core difference lies in the supernatural, with Macbeth being plagued by living ghosts and ascending through witches’ prophecies. An evocative, otherworldly soundscape is planned through onstage found-object percussion, performed by the cast who remain seated onstage for the entirety of performance. In a play revolving around the occult, having such a clear separation from a performed reality could further create an otherworldly unease. The constant physical presence of the ensemble could also be interesting as the characters swing between private and public revolutions. I’m particularly excited to see Lord and Lady Macbeth’s moments of ‘solitude, ‘ whether it be secret plotting or panicked regret, take place within an unseeing crown. The visualisation alone is a feeding ground for paranoia.
Initial discussions also started around Jean Tong’s Coda, which will be performed after the show with the cast reprising their roles. While currently open to development, the current script questions the persisting role of a single playwright over time, potentially at the exclusion of other more recent works, and acting as a dominance of both an individual and a cultural mindset. I’m particularly interested in her discussion around the hypocrisy that can regard changing language – why is it that a man compiling newly developed words is hailed as a genius, while current digressions from what is seen as accepted language are scorned? The play was written partially as propaganda chronicalling the chaos and terror of breaking the divine right believed to surround kingship and resolving with the reinstatement of the first heredity monarchy. The Coda questions the acceptance of this as a purely happy ending, and critiques how both a play and it’s very language can act as a form of ownership and control.
With two months to go, I’m excited to see how this very present and public interpretation evolves over time!