MACBETH: one of the most frightening and gripping plays ever written. A nightmarish world of bloodshed, war and political violence.
in situ:’s vocally and visually compelling new production of Shakespeare’s bloody masterpiece opens on a devastated landscape. A crazed woman is dancing amongst the rubble – the spectacle cases, the photographs, the hair, the ashes, the teeth. Out of this debris of people’s lives and deaths, a performance begins to emerge:
By the pricking of my thumbs
Something wicked this way comes
The Macbeth Project
In 2001 we staged Shakespeare’s most eerie and chilling play in an ordinary three-bedroomed house, with a diverse group of ten performers. The domestic, chambered, setting allowed us to reflect on the text in a number of ways, all at once. It also seemed to open different internal windows on the piece, encouraging us to see it in the light of other things.
Performers and directors examined what they perceived in Macbeth, drawing on their own experience, interests and situations. This is always a starting point for in situ: – finding ‘ways in’ to a text that have resonance, relevance and power for us.
The 2003 production draws on the work done in the house ‘Macbeth Project’. We have sought to build upon certain concepts and images, and to reflect on the play anew.
One of the strands in 2001 was the work of the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, and we have returned to this because of its powerful picture of the psychic roots of violence, and the extraordinary imagery it conjures.
Klein worked in the first half of the 20th century, primarily in Britain, with children. Through consultations with very young analysands, she devised a means of using children’s play in a psychoanalytic context, much in the way that adults use speech and language. She formulated a controversial and not very pretty idea of infant and child psychic development.
This involved the splitting of internal and external objects into “good” and “bad”. The body of the mother, particularly the breast, becomes the focus of much of this vengeful, violent drama. Psychic development moved through a chaotic, shattered and envious ‘paranoid-schizoid’ position, to reparation and recognition of a complete and complex other.
Klein’s writing isn’t as lucid as Freud’s, but its vocabulary and images are arresting and potent. Her collected writings, ‘Envy and Gratitude’ and ‘Love, Guilt and Reparation refer to the clinical setting of her work – a playroom with toys that are often scattered, smashed, thrown, torn apart and hidden away. Using in situ:‘s fine collection of ravaged and broken dolls (many of them part-objects), we seek to evoke the nightmarish, unconscious fantasy that underpins the violence of the play. Macbeth’s external and internal worlds are blurred, and his interlocutors are an unstable conglomeration of fantasy partner, analyst and self.
Serial Killers: Fred and Rose West
In the ‘Macbeth Project’ the figure of the serial killer emerged as another psycho-cultural trope. We have developed this by imagining the Macbeths in the image of the sado-masochistic relationship that slips out of fantasy and into bloody reality. The intimate, hypersexualised domestic abbatoir of Fred and Rose West was our paradigm.
If Mrs Klein and the Wests are of a piece, overseeing the play’s darker structures, we have drawn on many other phenomena and influences.
Steven Connor’s ‘Dumbstruck: a cultural history of ventriloquism’ is a dense and fascinating study of the place of the voice itself in our culture, as much as it explores the art of talking without moving the lips. The quality of listening, and the eerie half-life it gives the puppet/dummy/doll intrigued us. It seems to us to fit in with the splintered psyches that inhabit ‘Macbeth’.
Finally, in situ: have long admired the Japanese contemporary movement form, Butoh. We explored its use in 2002’s ‘Without History’, in the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
Butoh: carries the dead with him
Founded by Tatsume Hijikata in 1959, Butoh combines European expressionism with Japanese forms, and a specifically Japanese perspective on the body, and the relationship between the living and the dead. The concept of the ‘dead (i.e. emptied out) body of Butoh’ is particularly appealing to us. Kazuo Ohno, Hijikata’s close contemporary, said that the Butoh performer ‘carries the dead with him’. It was with this image that we started – Macbeth as a corpse, reanimated on the slaughter ground…