Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Haka-d Off

On Sunday, we went to see a production of Macbeth. It was not a very good production - in fact, it made me wonder whether there wasn't a case to be made for the mandatory presence at rehearsals of an outsider whose job it is to ask the director questions. For instance, in the case of the production we saw, the questions that I think needed to be asked were these:

  1. Why have you decided to amalgmate the three witches into the body of one rather attractive young blonde woman, (and if it is simply because you want her to have a sex scene with Macbeth towards the end of the play, that is probably not a good enough reason - sexing up always ends in disaster, as Tony Blair et al could tell you)?
  2. Having chosen to have a single witch, why have you then decided to put her voice through one of those machines they use on current affairs programmes to disguise people's voices?
  3. Having chosen to have a single witch and to put her voice through a distortion machine, so that it's virtually impossible to catch a word she's saying anyway, why have you also decided to make her gabble most of her lines?
  4. Why have you decided to direct the main actor to adopt, whenever he is on stage, a posture that is a cross between someone getting in training for the ski season, (bending of the knees at all times) and someone hoping to be cast as the hunchbacked king in the company's next production of Richard III?
  5. Why have you decided to use an unaltering stage set that contains no props whatsoever and looks like a particularly tatty corner of Battersea Park (without even the hope of a glimpse of the power station's dramatic silhouette in the background)?
But I'm not really complaining, because even the worst production of Shakespeare always has one redeeming feature - Shakespeare's words, which across the years still have the power to move and delight. No matter what decisions are made about setting or actors or costume, if you can hear Shakespeare's wonderful language, an evening at the theatre is never completely wasted.

That's the main reason I always enjoyed going to the Globe in London. To listen to the words of Shakespeare. Which is why I object to the current season's productions - here is an excerpt from this year's Troilus and Cressida at the Globe Theatre, to demonstrate what is being lost:
I leave it to the reviewer on Radio 3 to give his expert assessment:

If I hadn't heard the interviewer refer to him as Gabriel, I might have imagined that his name was Tim:

Here's Radio 3's Philip Dodd asking the question that is central to my objections to the Globe's multi-lingual season:

Here is the full excerpt from Radio 3, with the reviewers flailing as they try to answer that question and justify their right-on, emperor's new clothes excitement about the whole sorry project:


  1. Spot on ZMKC. Excellent questions - the only ones missing were (1) why the confusing recycling of actors in various roles (2) why the equally confusing casting of females in male roles (3) why did the director want us to think that Macbeth was Ned Kelly?
    I had thought the Globe was an admirable institution before the recent sorry project, as you aptly put it.

    1. The male/female thing was, according to Helen, a v knowing, so tremendously clever nod to the habit in Shakespeare's time of having young boys play girls. Did you get an email I sent you from the zmkc email account, or did it go in your rubbish?

  2. Yes - agree it all sounds v tantalising.