The Rude Mechanicals present


Directed by Jeff Hersh

About Macbeth

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most loved, and over-quoted plays. Indeed, the fame of the play is such that practically every scene has a phrase that has become cliché. This is unfortunate, for it dilutes the core message of the play. It is a play about corruption, violence, horror and the tragedy of a good man who turns evil.

The play asks its audience what can make a good man turn evil? It is a question has been asked over and over again about hundreds of people; from the world’s worst tyrants to the stereotypical quiet neighbor who one day commits horrible acts of violence. The question is central to how we see ourselves. Is mankind inherently evil or good?

Macbeth is a visceral play, and this Rude Mechanicals’ production of this classic among classics, takes a non-traditional look on the play. We have staged Macbeth in a time where society has fallen, the post-apocalypse. What has caused the world to move on is not important. What is important is the straw man of a society that remains. In this society violence is the norm, survival is uncertain, and only the strong (physically, intellectually and socially) can even hope of surviving.

As the play opens, we are introduced in grand fashion to Shakespeare’s quintessential trio, the Three Witches. We have moved away from a traditional interpretation of the witches to them being a reflection of primal forces in this ruined world. The trio represents willpower, sex and the fear inherent in the unknown, all core aspects of our natures. The witches are elements of the world that exist in all of us, dangerous elements. Like fire, they useful but they can also destroy if not handled carefully. The fact that we have given the Three Witches a distinctly spiritual aspect tells us something about how humanity relates to politics, religion and faith. Like the core elements of the psyche, hope and morality (central to any religion or political ideology) can corrupt and destroy if followed mindlessly. Thus the Witches gain power through their ever expanding coterie of thralls, people and spirits captured by the power of the witches and forced to join their dance (literally).

The world of Macbeth is populated by numerous lords (or in our case warlords). These men and women are not nice people. They have carved their own empire by their force of will and by violence and ruthlessness. These are not the genteel nobles of traditional productions. These are people of passion with very human flaws. Ross, MacDuff, Malcom, Lennox, and the rest are the seeds of a new civilization.

Among these lords we have the famous antiheroes of the play, Macbeth and his wife Lady Macbeth. The text offers a challenge to modern audiences in that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth fall into evil almost immediately. This was the style of storytelling in Shakespeare’s day. Villains were villains from the start and the audience knew it. To a modern audience used to character development beyond face value, it lessens the true tragedy of the play. If one cannot sympathize or empathize with the central character’s fall, then all we have is melodrama. To heighten the tragedy of the play, we have portrayed the Macbeths as a very loving and passionate couple. They love each other more fully and maturely than any other characters in the Shakespearean canon. We get the sense that these people would die for each other. Even their most horrible actions are understandable, and therefore tragic, when we realize that everything they do is spurred on by their desire to make a better life for themselves in a hostile world. Desires all of us share.

Lady Macbeth is by far the most well known female character in Shakespeare. She is fiercely intelligent. Her body of knowledge runs from the scientific to the spiritual. She is an inventor, the strategist and the pragmatist. However, for all her intelligence and ambition she cannot divest herself of her core humanity, that piece in all of us that tells us what is right and wrong. Indeed, it is her inability to reconcile what she has done with her better nature, along with phantoms of a tragedy in her past, which drives her to madness and death.

Macbeth is the everyman. A good man who is tempted with power and his dreams of a better life for himself and those he loves. Through most of the play he is plagued by the morality what he and his wife are planning (and what they have done). Redemption for Macbeth is never far away for all his sins. All he has to do to walk away — that is, until he orders the slaughter of the innocent out of spite. A crime that holds no hope of redemption. Thus, Macbeth sets in motion forces that will cause his eventual destruction.