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Nobody hears the word “Macbeth” and thinks comedy. This is a play where even the funniest lines turn out to be descriptions of capital punishment (“Nothing in his life / became him like the leaving it”), or the drunken ruminations of a servant about to learn some horrible news. If Shakespeare himself ever visited Scotland, I don’t think he had a very good time.
So it’s easy to see ads for Macbeth, the 2017 CCLA / GCTC Lawyer Play, and doubt it will be a fun night out at the theatre. But with less than two weeks until our gala performances – Thursday May 25, Friday May 26, and Saturday, May 27 – something very special is coming together.
The language in these plays isn’t easy. It uses some obscure or archaic vocabulary, and has a really special rhythm. At least one of the (supposedly) rhyming couplets requires a bit of an accent if it’s even going to actually rhyme! But with the experienced guiding hand of our director, Geoff McBride, I think the cast is finding the truth in Shakespeare’s poetry in a way that’s exciting to watch.
Which reminds me of all those fight scenes. Intrepid cast members (braver than me) are working on truly intense battles. Rehearsals are punctuated by the sound of swords striking shields (and batons, and maces, and chains …). I’ve seen cast members repeat harrowing scenes of murder over and over. Even without the costumes and make-up, it feels real.
And then there’s the witches. The three actors playing our witches cut a truly eerie path through this play. It might be a brutal story about civil war, self-destructive ambition, twisted love and guilt, but this play is also a ghost story that aims to scare.
The paranormal activity does not end with the witches. Even characters who begin our play as your normal, everyday Queen of Scotland or Thane of Some-Random-Place-in-the-Highlands tend to end up as apparitions. Every day at rehearsals we have someone who plays a real, living human being in early scenes floating through the scene as an apparition, visible to few (if any) characters on stage.
Under the leadership of our director, our stage manager Jess Preece, the whole creative team, and the professional staff of the GCTC, we’ve come a long way with a difficult text. At this point in rehearsals, it’s easy to forget how far you’ve come, and even the strangest, scariest, darkest scenes can seem almost normal once you’ve rehearsed them enough times.
But I think the audiences, coming into this fresh from May 24-27, are going to be stunned and shocked. In a totally non-violent, entirely positive way.