Posted by: Adrian D. Cameron | November 2, 2010

hauntings: macbeth

Sarah Berhardt as Lady Macbeth via RMN

in honor of the approaching halloween festivities (only 363 more days to get that joey buttafuoco costume together!) , i decided to try and poof up some classical dramaticals rigged up as haunted houses.  the enduring popularity (escalating popularity?) of the medium points no doubt to audiences’ desires to engage with their engagements, web 2.0-style.  this matter consumes a great deal of my thinking on modern performance practices.  the ultimate essence of performance exists neither in the performer’s particular agency, or from within the audience’s potential receptivity..  it rather crackles along the ionized air between the two:  performance = engagement.

i’ll post a couple more of these before the week is out.  but to begin, here is the daddy of the scrary scaries..


MACBETH by William Shakespeare

as we wait to enter in the alley behind the old stone pub (the wolf & sheep) we are treated to the not-too-far-off clatter and groan of the nearby battle, underscored by a discordant piping.  the occasional glimpse of bloodied soldiers or burst of pierced-lung screams whets our fear.

as we enter the main room we are immersed in a media-saturated environment proclaiming Macbeth’s greatness, ascent & coronation.  leaflets, TV & radio news broadcasts and the odd actor or two detail for us the world of the twisted leader’s dark mind.  it is from here that we take our excursions to the nether regions of the environment.. down into the liquor room, with its soft, stale reek.  a grimm-like forest motif clings to the shelves arrayed with eerily backlit bottles.  unidentifiable creatures serendaede us with their snorts and songs.  near the back are congregating three hideous hags, conferring unintelligibly.  come too close and they will HISS.  explore the space a little further and we find the former King Duncan crumpled in a dark alcove – bloodied, gurgling – who will recount the petrifying tale of his excruciating downfall before gruesomely expiring.

passing back through the pub proper we shall encounter a young Scot behind the bar, conversing with a drunken porter and an ancient gentleman who will tell of the harrowing night they all endured.

if we make our way to the pub’s offices behind the bar and close the door behind us, there will surge into the room the scattered utterances of the Macbeths; dreaming, desiring, imagining, plotting and finally planning the murder of their King.  their voices will become distorted and their words indecipherable at time.  the light is dim and we may at times question the disembodied voices.  their responses will rise in agitation until we are eventually expelled from the dark echo chamber.

we ascend the stairs to the upstairs apartment where we happen upon the gruesome scene that is the slaughtered family of the Macduffs.  the disastrous state of the surroundings testify to the preceding struggle.  once the sickening scene has fully permeated, the dead young Macduff rises from his sticky place beside his mother to lead us to the windows that look down on to the lower end of the alleyway where we may helplessly view the savage murderers set upon Banquo and his son, felling them before our eyes on the dirty cobblestones below.

back in the pub we encounter Duncan’s sons, devising their revenge on the Macbeths.

the private back room is prepared as for a banquet – a long table surrounded by chairs.  it is warm, inviting, a jovial atmosphere.  we are offered seats at the table so we join the feast , scraping our wooden chairs on the wooden slats.  however, as we settle in the ambience alters, swiftly, dramatically.  what was warm becomes cold, lush orchestral strings reshape into harsh metallics.  our table is surrounded by the ghosts of the murdered victims of the Macbeths who will captivate and terrorize us until we are permitted to escape back out into relative safety.

the ever more populated pub now ensconces the witches from earlier in our journey.  dark prophesy is related.  we become aware that a look at the hideous twosome awaits us back inside the pub’s lavatories.  in the Ladies we meet Lady Macbeth herself in her somnambulist hell.  deep from within her sleepwalking state she confronts the guilt of her grisly crimes, routinely  (desperately) scrubbing herself in the sink to remove the telltale bloodstains that will never wash away.  behind the door of the Gentlemens we discover Macbeth, insane eyes gaping at the ghostly horror only he can see.  he tries to submit to the weight of his evil acts but his torture is unceasing.

when we have finally returned to the main room, the accumulated personages have all disappeared and we are alone.  suddenly we are urgently ordered to brace against the long wall as the battle has begun!  we huddle in amazement as a cacophonous roar fills the pub..  characters tear across the space, howling in rage and agony.. smashes and crashes assault our ears, trampling commences.. it is impossible to tell who is hero or villain, who is dying or who is killing..  everything shatters.

then everything falls silent.

Duncan’s sons enter abruptly and inform us curtly that our tour is finished.  we are escorted off the premises to the same fractured bagpiping that accompanied our entrance.  as we exit the alley we can carefully make out all the ragged ghosts at the other end, slowly coming closer.

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  1. Never liked haunted houses to begin with. Your vision of the Macbeths’ digs just puts the scab on the slash! For those who are drawn to this kind of “fearengagement” your house is blood chilling superb “performance!” Looking forward to your next house tour.

  2. [...] all the stories on display as they so desired.  the haunted house, a subject i took up in an earlier post, is another prominent [...]

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