GSC Macbeth

Act I

On a bleak Scottish moorland, Macbeth and Banquo, two of King Duncan’s generals, discover three strange women (witches). The witches prophesy that Macbeth will be promoted twice: to Thane of Cawdor (a rank of the aristocracy bestowed by grateful kings) and King of Scotland. Banquo’s descendants will be kings, but Banquo isn’t promised any kingdom himself. The generals want to hear more, but the “weird sisters” disappear. 

Soon afterwards, King Duncan names Macbeth Thane of Cawdor as a reward for his success in the recent battles. The promotion seems to support the prophecy. The King then proposes to make a brief visit that night to Macbeth’s castle at Inverness. Lady Macbeth receives news from her husband about the prophecy and his new title. She vows to help him become king by whatever means are necessary (*ominous music*). 

Act II

Macbeth returns to his castle, followed almost immediately by King Duncan. The Macbeths plot together to kill Duncan and wait until everyone is asleep. At the appointed time, Lady Macbeth gives the guards drugged wine so Macbeth can enter and kill the King. He regrets this almost immediately, but his wife reassures him. She leaves the bloody daggers by the dead king just before Macduff, a nobleman, arrives. When Macduff discovers the murder, Macbeth kills the drunken guards in a show of rage and retribution. Duncan’s sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, flee, fearing for their own lives; but they are, nevertheless, blamed for the murder. 

Act III

Macbeth becomes King of Scotland but is plagued by feelings of insecurity. He remembers the prophecy that Banquo’s descendants will inherit the throne and arranges for Banquo and his son Fleance to be killed. In the darkness, Banquo is murdered, but his son escapes the assassins. At his state banquet that night, Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo and worries the courtiers with his mad response. Lady Macbeth dismisses the court and unsuccessfully tries to calm her husband. 

Act IV

Macbeth seeks out the witches who say that he will be safe until a local wood, Birnam Wood, marches into battle against him. He also need not fear anyone born of woman (that sounds secure, no loop-holes here). They also prophesy that the Scottish succession will still come from Banquo’s son. Macbeth embarks on a reign of terror, slaughtering many, including Macduff’s family. Macduff had gone to seek Malcolm (one of Duncan’s sons who fled) at the court of the English king. Malcolm is young and unsure of himself, but Macduff, pained with grief, persuades him to lead an army against Macbeth. 

Act V

Macbeth feels safe in his remote castle at Dunsinane until he is told that Birnam Wood is moving towards him. Malcolm’s army is carrying branches from the forest as camouflage for their assault on Macbeth’s stronghold. Meanwhile, an overwrought and conscience-ridden Lady Macbeth walks in her sleep and tells her secrets to her doctor. She commits suicide. As the final battle commences, Macbeth hears of Lady Macbeth’s suicide and mourns. 

In the midst of a losing battle, Macduff challenges Macbeth. Macbeth learns Macduff is the child of a caesarean birth (loophole!), realises he is doomed, and submits to his enemy. Macduff triumphs and brings the head of the traitor Macbeth to Malcolm. Malcolm declares peace and goes to Scone to be crowned king.

My memories of Macbeth come from reading it in school and my memory got quite twisted along the way to the point that I remembered the story as Lady Macbeth being the villain and Macbeth being a poor defenseless man. Prior to seeing this production, I read my Macbeth book (which is part of a box set of 16 Shakespeare plays, targeted at an audience of 9-11 year olds. Meaning, it’s easy to understand!)

After I managed to separate my imagination memories from the actual plot, I looked forward to going to see it. This particular production was inside a church. GSC are very creative in finding unusual spaces to put on their performances. I’ve seen so many wonderful GSC productions in the last 3 years.

Watching as an adult, I saw the three witches less as they are and more as figments of Macbeth’s own PTSD. I viewed the play as Macbeth’s descent into madness after seeing the horrors of war. (Feel free to disagree, this was just how I interpreted this particular production.) I saw Lady Macbeth as less of a villain and more as I woman who was stuck in the madness and who tried to help.

The first act was SO boring! It lacked the intensity needed for Macbeth. It lacked drama, fight, and intrigue. In short, it wasn’t anything to write home about.

I felt disappointed. The first half included Act I, Act II, and Act III. The acting was good, I could appreciate that but it wasn’t resonating with me or making me feel like I was included in what I was watching. For me, the first half remained Shakespeare’s words and didn’t engage like a play should. My friend felt the same disappointment.

The second half which was Act IV and Act V, was much better and saved the viewing pleasure for me. This part was filled with intensity, action, violence, drama, and made me feel apart of the story. Yet, I was still left at the end, feeling like I’d seen better.

I couldn’t work out what era this production was set in. They had an air raid siren (from WW2), but the characters wore both army uniform from the 1940s and present day, so it was quite difficult to understand what era they’d chosen. It’s a small thing but it really irritated me.

The only part that really stood out to me was the creepiness of the witches. They made those three characters so creepy. The beginning of the play starts with an air raid that kills three siblings, 2 girls and 1 boy. Those three then turn into the witches. The main witch was the younger girl who carried a toy doll through the entire play. They made use of nursery rhymes and childish giggles to further extenuate the creepiness of the three witches and it did, at times, cause me chills.

All in all, it was an average performance. I enjoyed it but I wasn’t wowed by it. In terms of other GSC productions I’ve seen, this one felt a little flat.

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