Archive | August, 2012

Manic masquerade

3 Aug

“Macbeth” is a play that probably everyone has seen. Once or twice, maybe even fifteen or thirty times. “Macbeth” – old or new, in different interpretations. And on the first day of the sixteenth Gdansk Shakespeare Festival, there was another “Macbeth” – old but new, happy-sad, a little bit ‘mingled’.
The queue in front of the TwO Windows Theatre was stretching across the whole Dluga street, opening only for tourists passing by. I could hardly believe that the little theatre would find room for so many people but it did. We sat down on the floor and waited for “Macbeth – theatre impression” to begin. We were welcomed with a short, enthusiastic, and very bilingual speech: “I’m very joyful because it’s just the beginning and it’s our performance, very off, bardzo offowy, jak widzicie (…)”. But the speaker quickly jumped into the crowd and suddenly we found ourselves surrounded (and a little suffocated) by dense smoke.
While still in front of the theatre, I was amused to ‘discover’ that the group which made this production, whose name is Lustra Strona Druga (the Other Side of the Mirror) is in short LSD. After just a little while, I realised that it’s no coincidence as the atmosphere was slightly narcotic, dark, and twisted. We were sitting there in complete darkness when Lady Macbeth appeared on stage. I could hardly see her but I could literally hear her presence as she was constantly washing her hands, rubbing them insistently as if she was trying to rub off the skin. The mix of orange and blue lights gave the audience a psychadelic and disturbing feeling, and everything became even weirder when soft, calm music went on. The music was of a subtle kind, like from some kind of baby toys.
It was all about madness and contrast; one of the most striking elements was the screening of pictures of war, yet they weren’t tragical, more strangely witty: colourful posters presenting soldiers with wide white smiles (and they really weren’t advertising Colgate), pictures of people and even dogs wearing gas masks. Military accents would appear quite often, the actors were wearing gas masks as well. They were running around the stage, barefooted, faceless, wearing uniforms, moving like animals. Perhaps the gas masks were surprising to some people, but unfortunately to me that was nothing new. I was just sitting there as pictures of other productions kept coming to my head. This “Macbeth” would at times resemble (to quite a large extent) performances that I’d seen before. The gas masks appeared in the London production “The Dark Side of Love” no longer than a month ago. And the military elements? I’ve seen that in 2010 in the film directed by Rupert Goold.
The atmosphere of overwhelming madness was at times a little bit obssessive and narcotic. Everyone can imagine Lady Macbeth in their own way but in that show she was love-thirsty and most of the time she was just clinging to her husband’s shirt. At times she was also annoyingly loud and she seemed to be simply obvious in all her madness.
Perhaps the performance wasn’t perfect but when it comes to “Macbeth”, we should bear in mind that it’s really difficult to ‘discover’ something new. The emotional struggle of the actors was something worth seeing. Although sometimes I’d feel like that show was just a ‘reminder’of what I’d seen before, I can’t say that it was lousy or dull. It wasn’t. The madness and animality of the characters running just in front of me was disturbing but it was also in a way fascinating.