Sunday, March 23, 2008


On Friday night, Wen and I went to see Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart at the BAM.  It was billed as the “Macbeth of a lifetime” (for its run in the U.K.) and lived up to its billing!  (Side note: for those of us who grew up with Steward as “Picard”, it’s nice to see him return to his roots as a Shakespearian actor)

The play saw Scotland turned into a Stalinist-era WWII nightmare.  The entire play was set in an anonymous yet eerie basement room, the cast dressed as Russian soldiers and Communist imagery was frequently projected onto the rear walls.

It was brilliantly executed.  Here are some highlights:

The scene where Macbeth (Stewart) informs the murders to kill Banquo, Patrick Stewart does so while making a sandwich.  While delivering his lines, he take a tray out of a fridge, makes the sandwich, cuts it, eats it (still talking) and then gives pieces to the murderers.  I’ve never observed a scene with so many moving parts or the potential for something to go wrong, yet it was delivered flawlessly.

The intermission occurred at the scene where Macbeth has a vision of a deceased Banquo revisiting him.  This was accomplished by having Banquo (played by Martin Turner) descend into the room via an elevator at the rear.  His neck and shirt are stained with blood as he was garroted in an earlier scene.  Everyone is eating at a long table with Macbeth at the head; he walks the entire length of the table (not hitting one piece of tableware), all the while looking forward (and everyone else continues eating).  As he reaches the end of the table he spreads his arms wide in a Jesus Christ pose, a spotlight hits him, Macbeth collapses...and the lights go out for the intermission.  Genius.

When Macduff (Michael Feast) is informed of the death of his family, he stood silent and in pain for a minute.  Their was utter silence in the theatre and with every second each member of the audience felt as thought they a member of their family had died.  I have never seen one person project such raw emotion so elegantly and with such minimal action.

There was only one thing I didn’t like about the play.  The “double, bubble, toil & trouble” scene was executed as a hip-hop medley.  I couldn’t make out half of the words.  Also, for some reason, a television in the background was running hardcore pornography.  Not sure if that really had anything to add to the play or was just an attempt by the director to show that his scenes were so engaging that he could get away with putting anything in the background.

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