Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Bloody "Macbeth" In The Park

It was purely coincidental that Red Dot Diva attended a Shakespearean tragedy on Polling Day, 7th May.

She had after all bought the tickets for Singapore Repertory Theatre's (SRT) version of "Macbeth" months earlier. The play proved to be somewhat foreshadowing with regards to the General Election results, albeit via less violent means.

There is always something magical about watching a Shakespeare play in a Park. "Macbeth" is the fourth outdoor stage production organized by SRT and Red Dot Diva had previously attended two of these ("A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Much Ado About Nothing"). Both performances turned out to be very memorable evenings. So she was awfully excited when she saw the tickets on sale for "Macbeth".

You see, "Macbeth" is her all-time favourite Shakespearean play. Bloody murder, relentless revenge, with brewing witchery and female wiles a-scheming. It was the first literary work that awakened all things dark in her small beating heart. Some teenagers go through a goth phase. During her adolescence, Lady Macbeth was Red Dot Diva's growing female consciousness.

She has since watched quite a few versions of "Macbeth", and was therefore, eager to see what SRT had to offer.

After rushing around to vote for her choice political party and traipsing around town for Free Comic Book Day (phew!), she managed to meet her friends Cheryl and companion, at the Gothic Gates, Fort Canning Hill, at about 615pm.

The line waiting to enter the historic park was already about 60 people deep. And it seemed like the entire expat crowd emerged from their local hideouts to come to Fort Canning. Hehe.

The organizers were late letting people in. It was only at about 6.40pm that folks were allowed into the Park to set their picnic mats. Luckily, Red Dot Diva and her friends managed to get a rather small, squeezy spot towards the middle of the field, one-quarter way up from the stage. Not a bad view.

In the quickening twilight, the stage setting looked ominously fantastic and quite imposing. More people continued to stream onto the field and it got very crowded by 7pm.

The set on stage

Red Dot Diva's little group has already began munching on their picnic goodies - ham sandwiches, cheese, salad, baby carrots, white wine ... Just look at the super-red giant strawberries that Cheryl brought!

Another long-time pal Sharon, arrived just before the play began, bringing with her boxes of fried rice noodles. She had been busy the entire day as a Polling Officer, so it was really fortunate she was able to make it to Fort Canning in time.

Then, just after 7pm, the stage lights were turned low. Everyone hushed their voices in collective anticipation as "Macbeth" the play began with the three witches. The sisters were dressed in steampunk-like garb and make-up which resemble the Joker's mask. They alternatively pranced and jerked around the stage like crazed puppets, setting the spooky tone of the play just right.

Director Nikolai Foster had made use of the big open spaces of Fort Canning by building a long wooden platform that led from the top of the hill to the stage. Red Dot Diva liked how the actors walked or ran on it often during the play, to denote approaching or leaving of castles and forests. It definitely brought the acting dramatically closer to the audience.

As usual, seasoned local actor, Adrian Pang, was a live-wire on stage and did not disappoint. His version of Macbeth was convincingly manic and cowardly arrogant at the same time. And he portrayed Macbeth's horrified guilt to chilling effect in what Red Dot Diva thought was the most memorable scene of the production -- that which involved the bloody vision of murdered Banquo (William Landsman) slinking out from under a banquet table. *shudder*

As Banquo, William Landsman - a rather new face in the local theatre scene - was dashingly handsome (a total manwich) and an excellent foil to Macbeth's insecurities. His ghost of Banquo involved haunting a frightened Macbeth but yet, he managed to inject a dash of dark humour in that pivotal scene.

Keagan Kang as Ross and Daniel Jenkins as Macduff were pretty strong in their respective roles too. It was definitely nice to see Keagan back on stage in the local arena. He has been missed.

And Red Dot Diva especially liked the first witch, played by Dayah Rahim. Her stage presence as the cackling, grotesque "big sister" witch was hard to ignore.

The major Achilles heel of the entire production was Patricia Toh's Lady Macbeth. There was a very noticeable lack of chemistry between Adrian and Patricia, which marred Red Dot Diva's fuller enjoyment of the play. The interplay and sexual politics between husband and wife was an integral part of Macbeth's motivations. Lady Macbeth is a complex, intelligent and most violent female character. She is one of a kind. And there simply was a lack of passion, sex appeal and conviction in Patricia's acting. Very disappointing. :(

As for the rest of the cast, their performance was mostly uneven. One or two of the lesser characters were actually mumbling their lines most of the time.

Otherwise, Red Dot Diva liked how the actors were directed to utilize the two-story set on stage. (Set was designed by award-winning Brit, Morgan Large.) The lighting by Andy Lim was also quite impressive. She noticed a reddish hue would be cast on set whenever things turned macabre and violent. Visually, the use of royal banners - a switch from the stately blue "D" for Duncan to a sudden dramatic red "M" - smartly signalled a change of tone and regime.

The use of modern costumes and props in the production were a tad distracting. "Macbeth" is a very Scottish play and Red Dot Diva would have much preferred if it had remained more traditional. And as one may be aware, she also has a penchant for kilts. ;) Although, she did love the witches' get-up, with their mad-afro-styled wigs and tattered dresses.

The 3-week run for "Macbeth" turned out to be pretty popular, and the last few shows were all sold out. However, Red Dot Diva can't say that this was one of SRT's better "Shakespeare in the Park" productions. She remembered savouring "Much Ado About Nothing" in 2009, which had a great ensemble cast and a sparkling production.

This year's "Macbeth" was flawed and quite off-balanced. Despite its sporadic genius-like creepy moments, the entire production did not manage to convey the rich, morbid experience that Red Dot Diva was expecting. Or perhaps, she is quite a traditionalist when it comes to "Macbeth", and this production smacked of Hollywood-ism, and was tailor-made for Generation Y.

Still ..... there is no denying that there is always something magical about watching a bloody Shakespeare play in a Park.

No comments:

Post a Comment