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Macbeth - and the community of theatre
Macbeth - and the community of theatre
Instead of keeping Macbeth in Scotland, director Anna Parr sought a setting closer to home. Looking into the same time period as Macbeth was meant to be set in, China and Mongolia raised some interesting links with characters and themes. In particular the research into Kublai Khan's ambitions and achievements were similar to those of Macbeth himself. Amongst many things, being a warrior who supposedly killed his brother to take the throne as the mighty emperor of the Yuan dynasty. The witches were in turn based on Mongolian shamans who had been raised from the dead in battle haunting Macbeth to the bitter end.
The rehearsal process relied heavily on workshops creating imagery, voice work, performance skills sessions and physical focus. The cast brought so much of themselves to the project and worked tirelessly to produce fresh action from the script.
Brothers Hector and Hugues were both part of the cast. Below each of them reflects on the unique community they experienced through participating in Macbeth and, for Hugues, in theatre productions over the past seven years.
By Hector Martin Dit Neuville, Grade 9, East Campus
A simple gathering of students to perform a piece written by a playwright from 400 years ago. Many consider putting on a theatre production to be as simple as that, and until a couple months ago I thought the same. Although I had watched my brother, Hugues, perform in numerous productions, ranging from A Midsummer Night’s Dream to The Crucible, I had never participated in a production myself as I was always too shy to perform on stage or (to be honest) too scared to attempt something new. This year however, was finally the year I decided to audition and it turned out to be for Macbeth. I auditioned for a variety of reasons. One of the main factors was that it was not only the last year my brother was to perform at the school but also the last year I would get a chance to be with him. This meant that exploring a world he felt so passionate about, was only going to allow me to spend more time with him. Watching him enjoy it all these years pushed me toward taking a brave step into a new aspect of my drama world.
Walking into the first rehearsal, I felt lost and overwhelmed by the age difference and experience that was around me. Being in Grade 9, I was one of the youngest in the High School cast. It turned out, that the experienced actors weren’t very intimidating at all. They instead led and pushed the others toward achieving what they had themselves learned in previous years. The entire company cared as much about helping each other as they did about themselves and it was amazing to watch and be a part of. As a sports player, and someone who loves rugby in particular, I could see a strange but bold connection between the two activities. In both, there was a strong sense of togetherness and group. In both cultures there was a sense of team first, which is something that not all people see in actors.
As we delved deeper into our interpretation of Macbeth set in 13th century China rather than Scotland, I began to understand the actor role within a production, be it small or big. I saw that the director does not simply have to tell an actor what to do and when, but instead an actor’s job reached much further than obeying orders. I was able to understand that while the director made the basic framework, and gave fabulous ideas, the piece was also created by the actors themselves. A constant input of thoughts and suggestions came from the actor. We had the ability to mould our character into what we believed it should be. This was all terribly exciting for me. The power of creating a character within the play was something different and truly fantastic.
The production of Macbeth was something entirely new, but also something I will never forget. It is the beginning of a freshly discovered side of me that I am certain will remain with me for quite a while.
By Hugues Martin Dit Neuville, Grade 12, East Campus
Seven years. Seven different productions. Twenty-two performance nights each filled with their own surprises and unique moments. Hundreds of hours spent after school and during lunch devising different scenes and running over lines.
Stepping off stage after the last production night of Macbeth was hard. After seven years of working with a variety of different people, building around myself a community that I will cherish for the rest of my life, it was difficult to walk away from the stage and finally acknowledge the fact that there will not be a ‘next time.’
Theatre does that to you.
There is a sense of community and belonging built through theatre that is unparalleled in any other activity. When you find yourself immersed in a group filled with a wide variety of different personalities - the school’s athletes, musicians, dancers and intellectuals - all pre-existing social barriers are subconsciously torn down for those two special hours you share with each other twice a week. The moment you step into the Black Box, everyone finds themselves on a level playing field. The person sitting opposite you in your French class that you never had the opportunity to speak with suddenly becomes your closest friend, and the basketball team’s captain who seemed to rule the world no longer seems as intimidating.
There has always been this misconception that actors are self-indulging egos, but when your individual and collective success is predetermined by your ability to work effectively with the person acting alongside you, it becomes impossible to put yourself before the group. On stage, your reactions to other people's lines are as important as the delivery of your own and making sure that everyone is on top of their lines and cues becomes your number one priority.
For me, it was the cohesiveness that we achieved over three months that made Macbeth so special.
From the first rehearsal you already had some of the older performers dealing out their personal tips and guidance onto the younger students. Every ensemble piece was created through endless discussions and precise planning. How can we make this part better? Wait, wouldn’t it be good if we all walked in in slow motion? How about we split up into groups and everyone shares their ideas at the end? It was the constant feedback and conversations that made the rehearsal process so fascinating. Moreover, we all wore our hearts on our sleeves. There wasn’t a problem we didn't share with one another. Our continual desire to make each other feel comfortable moulded us into a tightly knit group.
Taking on Shakespeare is always a daunting task, and having it set in 13th Century China is somewhat absurd. Yet, I was left amazed by the way in which every member of the cast, regardless of age and experience, embraced the challenge with enthusiasm and zealousness. Whether is was through watching videos of various different cultural traditions, countless attempts at perfecting a Mongolian handshake or contorting our bodies in crazy positions, we all adopted a new culture that has added a new perspective to our individual outlooks. And, to be honest, that's the beauty of theatre. Every production helps redefine your personality, gifting you with new perspectives and a sense of understanding that you had not had before.
I will miss the countless hours of laughter and joy I have shared with my fellow actors. I will miss the feeling of inclusiveness that every production team has, and the feeling of belonging that I have rarely felt in any other environment. And, most importantly, I will miss the exploration and sense of self-discovering that comes with every new production.
Turning my sights on university and my future, I can not begin to imagine a life in which theatre does not hold a significant place in my everyday world. I can be sure that all the qualities that theatre has rewarded me with will allow me to integrate myself easily into any environment I find myself in, and feel comfortable overcoming any challenges life will most undoubtedly throw my way.