Monkeys are smart. Though they haven't created cars or trains or weapon, they are educated through simplicity. They flourish on what they have, and if something doesn't work, they don't give up, but they evolve to overcome it. Like monkeys, Shakespeare had no thesaurus, no dictionary, no laptop and no editor. But when he came to a spot where he was at loss for words, he made up his own words. Through practice, perseverance and certainly trial and error, he created works that will last forever.

I am a 13 year old kid who is trying to read and attend live performances of all 37 Shakespeare plays (plus 3 possible collaborations) in 2 years. This is a record of my experiences.

I am now a 19 year old college freshmen at Northwestern University, pursuing a degree in Theatre. The spark of love for Shakespeare that began this blog has grown into a roaring fire. That fire burns a little bit brighter each day. This is where it all began.


Friday, June 20, 2014

6/14/2014 - MacBeth With Kenneth Branagh, The Armory


          We stumbled through the vast darkness of the armory, searching for our seats amidst the literal battlefield that would become the stage. Finding our wooden, backless seats (really just benches), we sat on one side of the narrow, mud-ridden alley. We peered down as if watching a joust. Three men could not have stood shoulder to shoulder across the space. On either extremity the alley widened out. On one end were three primitive stone arches, calling to mind the likes of Stonehenge. Beyond them was the expanse of terrain through which we had entered. 

          Opposing these ominous relics was a tile-floored altar, the only ground in sight that was not mud. There stood a white-clad woman, motionless, with her back to us. Suddenly, our attention snapped upwards as a crash of thunder signaled the opening of the show. Rain began pouring down on the stage in front of us as armor clad warriors began to flood into the aisle. The ensuing battle was bloody, ending with Duncan fooling his foe into a fatal ambush. In the aftermath, bodies remained on stage as the living vacated it. The rain ceased. For a moment, there was stillness. Then, out eerie gloom arose three creates, quietly shattering the foreign stillness with the familiar words "when shall we three meet again." 

The main stage

          For the next two hours I sat fully immersed in the world of Kenneth Branagh's Macbeth. From vicious slaughter to anxious scheming, there was no shortage of captivating drama. This fast paced rendition of Shakespeare's classic enraptures the audience in a cinematic performance, riddled with special effects and intricate lighting.

          Branagh brings a unique urgency to the role of Macbeth, a squeamish quality that emphasizes the tragic warrior’s uneasiness away from the battlefield. His relaxed fluidity in any of the immaculately choreographed fight scenes emanates total control and comfort in his surroundings. However, when forced to play the political game, his skill and artistry is replaced with indecision and impulse. This resulting contrast casts Macbeth in a barbaric light each time he verbally interacts, as if he is “dressed in borrowed robes,” from the very start. Unlike Banquo and MacDuff, he is unable to shed his warrior’s demeanor with his armor.

Branagh and Kingston

As for Branagh’s counterpart, Alex Kingston displays a variety of Lady Macbeth, from eccentric and frightened, oscillating in a moment. The ultimate politician, she morphs to fit any circumstance. She foils Macbeth completely, able to say anything convincingly but do very little. Thus she pulls Macbeth along as if she were leading a dog. Complementing each other, the two exhibit strong stage chemistry, at once lusty lovers and murderous allies.

         As an actor myself, I can understand the toil of actors and actresses on stage. Rarely do I attend a play after which I would say this, but I could not imagine carrying out that Macbeth every night. It is a testament to the mettle of cast that they are able to do so, and at such a high level. Between the constant fighting and traversing the vast area of the theatre at a rapid pace, I don’t think Branagh went five minutes without an all out sprint, with the same pressing urgency each time. Until the last line, I was hunched on the edge of my bench focused intently on the play unfolding before me as if I were seeing it for the first time. It was only after the final round of applause that I realized my back was killing me.