Posted By Kathleen David on May 4, 2013
Yesterday Peter and I dropped Caroline off with her sister Gwen for her own adventure. We went on our own adventure and saw Alan Cumming’s MacBeth. It is not Alan Cumming in MacBeth (well it is) but Alan Cumming’s take on MacBeth as in he plays almost all the characters with a little help from his fellow actors Jenny Sterlin and Brendan Titley.
The play doesn’t have an intermission, which would give one some time to breath and think about what one is seeing. So it is abridged and honestly I didn’t miss the words that were gone.
The situation they give us is that Alan Cumming is brought in with blood on his clothes and neck into the room of a mental ward. He is processes and left almost alone in the room. There are security cameras and an observation window from which Ms. Sterlin (A Doctor) and Mr. Titley (An Orderly) observe.
As the Doctor and the Orderly turn to go it starts with “When shall we three meet again” and then rocks one through the entire play with the mental ward procedures occasionally breaking in.
Now with the wrong actor, this could go horribly wrong and seem like an exercise of self-gratification. But Cumming is the right actor with the right acting chops to make this sing. Most of it is done in his natural voice so if one has a hard time with accents, this is not the play for them. But the brogue plays to the words giving it a timber and a tone which is pleasing to the ear.
He sets up some delineations early on so the audience learns how to figure out who is speaking. They use the security cameras rather deftly allowing him to play one character upstage while the other is facing downstage. We see the face of the other character in the TV screens set up above the mental ward. Through that the audience is able to follow along.
It is amazing to watch. And can be a little uncomfortable at times but you can’t turn away. And he wasn’t wearing any form of a microphone. He did an hour and 44 minutes of Shakespeare on his voice and breath alone. In this day and age, that is an accomplishment in its own right. He did look wiped when he was taking bows.
This is not a play for everyone but if you like Shakespeare and aren’t a purist about it, this is so the play for you. I would not recommend it for the younger set because there is nudity during the show and you sort of have to know the play pretty well to follow everything. If you are an Alan Cumming fan and have the chance to see this, do so. It will delight and haunt you, which is what you really want from the Scottish Play.
I am grateful that I went to see this show.