BY: ALESSANDRO SERRA
BASED ON: SHAKESPEARE’S MACBETH
DIRECTOR, SETTING, LIGHTING, & COSTUME DESIGN: ALESSANDRO SERRA
TRANSLATION INTO SARDINIAN AND LANGUAGE CONSULTANT: GIOVANNI CARRONI
STAGE MOVEMENT CONSULTANT: CHIARA MICHELINI
SOUND SCULPTURE COMPOSITIONS: PINUCCIO SCIOLA
SOUND STONES COMPOSITION: MARCELLINO GARAU
CAST: FULVIO ACCOGLI, ANDREA BARTOLOMEO, LEONARDO CAPUANO, ANDDREA CARRONI, GIOVANNI CARRONI, MAURIZIO GIORDO, STEFANO MEREU, FELICE MONTERVINO
FROM: CAMPAGNIA TEATROPERSONA SARDEGNA TEATRO - ITALY
MAIN PROGRAM, INTERNATIONAL SELECTION
DATE ATTENDED: 4 JUNE 2019
What I Saw
I’ve had to wait four days before I could write about Macbettu. To put it simply, it was that good, and I wanted to be sure the production resonated as strongly after some time. If I had tried to write the evening after the performance, my excessive salivation and adrenaline-riddled hands would’ve destroyed my laptop, and my proliferous effusions would’ve no doubt bored any reader - never mind the fact that my mind was reeling with all the juicy imagery director Alessandro Serra conjured. To get a sense of the scale and visual intensity of this production, I encourage you to look at this promotional video here.
With a cast of all men (a nod to the performative practices of Shakespeare’s era), Serra and company situated themselves in the realm of Grotowski’s poor theatre and doused themselves with echoes of Butoh and vaudeville to forge a production that is the paradigmatic example of Brook’s Holy Theatre. The vocal and physical specificity of every performer on that stage was nothing short of genius. And for a production of one of Shakespeare’s ‘heavier’ plays, it was riotously funny - thanks in large part to the incredible performances from the three actors portraying the witches.
The stage design consisted, initially, of what appeared to be a solid aluminum wall upstage center, and the production opened with the cast beating ferociously on this wall while hidden behind it to create the “thunder and lightning” of Shakespeare’s opening stage directions. This impressive and inventive use of scenic elements for their sonic qualities returned regularly throughout the production. For example, the table for the banquet scene was set with large crackers that crushed like sonorous bones under the feet of Banquo’s ghost.
Soon, what appeared to be a wall fell forward, and the scenery revealed itself to be composed of four long aluminum tables that had been tipped up so their tops faced the audience. With no dwindling ingenuity, these simple scenic elements were utilized in ways no furniture-maker could ever envision to create stunning variations of place and space. A simple wooden chair, sized for a child, served as the throne, highlighting the childish Game of Thrones Macbeth’s been seduced into playing. To boot, the whole stage was covered in the perfect amount of faux-dust, so that each actor's steps sent a cloud into the air around them.
Most of the cast functioned like a chorus, inhabiting various roles - aside from the actors portraying Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. A tall bearded actor with long dark hair bedecked in a floor length black gown portrayed Lady Macbeth; hardly uttering a word during the production and stoically standing at least a head taller than all of the other performers, his stage presence reeked of death incarnate. Serra chose to stage Lady Macbeth’s suicide suggested by Shakespeare’s text, having the actor ritualistically remove his gown to expose his nude body (which was lit to appear hauntingly feminine with his genitals tucked between his legs) before being carried to the rear of the stage, where his body magically levitates before languorously swinging from the scenery, creating one of the production's most stunning visuals.
In another impressive moment, Lady Macbeth feeds her houseguests, who surround her on their knees oinking like swine, by pouring blood into a trough - a visceral metaphor no doubt. After their feeding, the soldiers lay their heads upon stones and sleep, while Macbeth murders Duncan and Lady Macbeth frames a sleeping soldier for his murder. After committing this first murder, Macbeth takes one of the stones upon which the soldiers were sleeping and sets it downstage. With each new murder, Macbeth balances a new stone on top of the others to construct an inukshuk, serving as both a monument to the dead and a warning to the living.
The only criticism I have of this production is that Macbeth and Banquo were played by similarly-sized bald men and their attire was fairly alike, leading me to regularly confuse who was who (since the production did not rest its laurels on Shakespeare’s language and instead relied on rich visual imagery to communicate the story); I’m only including this nit-picky tidbit so I don’t fan-boy too hard on Serra and company, though announcing that may very well defeat my purpose.
Suffice it to say, I could write a novel, a prog-rock album, an epic poem, and a dissertation about this production, but I haven’t the time for that so I’ll conclude here. Macbettu is one of those rare theatrical projects that - from every angle - is a perfect encapsulation of what the contemporary theatre can and should be - a medium that’s defiantly anti-mimetic; full of corporeality, poetry, and byzantine emotional life; riddled with surprise, delight, and invention at every turn; and something that can only be experienced live. At only an hour and a half long, Serra effectively streamlined Shakespeare’s text into a concise production without sacrificing any narrative. This was a production that rolls around like a Shakespearean swine in the muddy chasm between divinity and filth, full of the highest articulations of humanity’s poetic capacity without forsaking the vulgar relics of the human body; calling it a religious experience would be an understatement.