Category: Language

Finding the turbulent polyphony of Macbeth

Posted September 30, 2010 - 3:28pm

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s best-known and most-produced plays, which makes it one of the best-known and most-produced plays in the English language. Certain key images and phrases permeate our consciousness as the play has been adapted and parodied in almost every manner and style imaginable. In the 1960s, in Barbara Garson’s Macbird, it became an expression of distrust for government following John F. Kennedy’s assassination. In the South African uMabatha it was a vehicle to portray the fall of the Zulu Empire. In addition to versions of the play itself, films have turned it into a samurai tragedy (Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood), gangster power struggles in Brooklyn and Melbourne, Australia, and a fight to control a fast food outlet in rural Pennsylvania. Stage productions in the past year have used the plot to portray power struggles in a Dutch chimpanzee enclosure and a Botswanan baboon troop. It has been parodied on The Simpsons and turned into a one-man show using The Simpsons’ characters’ voices for Shakespeare’s thanes. And this only scratches the surface.

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AN INTERVIEW WITH MACBETH VOICE AND TEXT CONSULTANT ANDREW WADE

Posted September 21, 2010 - 10:50am

Walter Bilderback: What is the importance of language to doing Shakespeare?

Andrew Wade: The importance is that the whole storyline is driven through the language. It’s very easy to talk about text-driven plays, because most plays have words in them. But in Shakespeare, the whole narrative is driven by how the language works, how we relate to that language, and therefore how a story is told to an audience. Shakespeare is verbalized thought.

WB: What are some of the ways in which you help actors to get a feel of that language?


AW: We are always having to find our relationship to form, so the work always seems to be changing, decade to decade, generation to generation, in how we relate to form and writing. How do you react to the form of the text? When I started teaching in the late ‘70s, working with a group in a drama school on the Romeo and Juliet prologue, an actor came in, and brought a sword, and ran around and jumped around the stage. And when I said, “Well what about the shape of it,” he said, “Oh, ____ the shape. I just wanted to be creative with it.” And I think in England during the Maggie Thatcher years everything became about qualifications and rules. There was a whole generation who just wanted answers on  how to speak Shakespeare. Wanted to know what the rules were.

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