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Mute MacBeth plays to young audience

Shakespeare's classic tragedy performed without words

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/11/2019 (350 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

For lovers of the Bard, the notion of presenting a classic Shakespeare play without the text might be considered something akin to blasphemy.

THEATRE PREVIEW

Click to Expand

Macbeth Muet
● Presented by Shakespeare in the Ruins
● Rachel Browne Theatre
● To Nov. 16
● Tickets $20-$25 at shakespeareintheruins.com or 204-891-9160

Yet the Montreal company La Fille du Laitier does precisely that with Macbeth Muet, their refreshing interpretation of the bloody tragedy, Macbeth, performed by just two actors — Clara Prevost Dubé and Jérémie Chalifour — using an array of cheap, disposable props with a trimmed-down running time of approximately 55 minutes. And, as per the title — "Muet" translates as "mute" — there is nary a word of dialogue.

Winnipeggers may have seen the show before. It had a successful run at the 2017 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, when the Free Press critic — that would be me — called it a display of "sheer theatrical invention."

Prior to its engagement at the Rachel Browne Theatre, it toured some Manitoba schools under the auspices of local sponsoring company Shakespeare in the Ruins.

For young people not faithfully attached to Shakespeare’s dialogue, the show is a treat, says director and co-creator Jon Lachlan Stewart.

The Macbeth Muet shopping list

“The dollar store should be one of our sponsors,” says Macbeth Muet director and co-creator Jon Lachlan Stewart of the many items used per show.

“We have we must have something like four table mats destroyed per show now, plus two or three paper plates.

“The dollar store should be one of our sponsors,” says Macbeth Muet director and co-creator Jon Lachlan Stewart of the many items used per show.

“We have we must have something like four table mats destroyed per show now, plus two or three paper plates.

“When you’re doing at 30-show tour of Manitoba, that really starts to add up.”

Thirteen eggs destroyed per show.

“There’s about a litre and a half of fake blood per show, made up of corn syrup, chocolate sauce, Coffee Mate plus food colouring and paint. It has to be bought every time.”

“Paper cups or styrofoam cups.”

“We use a whole roll of Scott Towel every show, with titles that are spray-painted onto the Scott towel and rolled out like an old silent film title card.”

"Students really get it and get on board with it, especially if they’re in the middle of studying it," he says. "The story is quite clear... maybe clearer than some productions involving text."

The two performers use props, makeshift puppets and more than a litre of fake blood to tell the story of how Lord and Lady Macbeth turn killers in a bid to win the Scottish crown.

"The way we’re doing the show is closer to the rhythm of how most pop culture works nowadays, so that’s deliberate," Stewart says.

"The production remains intelligent and we try to keep the pathos of the original show, but we give a shout-out to contemporary media.

"It really feels more like a bunch of YouTube videos in sequence," he says.

That is not to say the show doesn’t have dramatic impact.

Chalifour and Clara Prevost Dubé in Macbeth Muet. (Supplied photo)

Chalifour and Clara Prevost Dubé in Macbeth Muet. (Supplied photo)

Some scenes, such as the murder of Lady Macduff and her children, pack a wallop.

"I think you need to take advantage of the points in these beautiful plays that Shakespeare wrote — these moments of storytelling that surpass language and surpass culture and get people on a more visceral level."

Since the work is more than 400 years old, it’s important to be able to connect with younger audiences who may be intimidated by the density of Shakespearean language.

The two performers use props, makeshift puppets and more than a litre of fake blood to tell the story of how Lord and Lady Macbeth turn killers in a bid to win the Scottish crown. (Supplied photo)

The two performers use props, makeshift puppets and more than a litre of fake blood to tell the story of how Lord and Lady Macbeth turn killers in a bid to win the Scottish crown. (Supplied photo)

"I always felt like this would connect with the younger generation," Stewart says.

"I really believe in the younger generation and I really want theatre to work for them.

"I hope that they come out thinking that theatre is kind of cool."

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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