Sometimes, people, there is nothing like the beauty of simplicity. It can be as simple as fresh snow on the grass. It can be as simple as a few notes tapped out on a piano. It can be a play that has been stripped bare of grandiose stage sets and elaborate costumes - like the production of "Macbeth" playing at Keyano Theatre this weekend.
Last night I had the honour and privilege of attending the opening night of Aquila Theatre's presentation of "Macbeth". Aquila is a theatre company originally founded in London, but now based in New York. You never know what you will get when you go to see Shakespeare, people. I've seen Shakespeare done "punk", and with WW II undertones. I've seen his plays done with costumes and sets that likely cost tens of thousands of dollars. And last night I saw "Macbeth", in my opinion one of the bard's finest works, stripped down to no set, virtually no props, simple costumes, and only lighting and fog used to create atmosphere. And you know what? It was completely stunning.
I was mesmerized from the opening moments, and my attention did not wander. The acting is evocative, the delivery crisp and unapologetic. It is a finely tuned cast of actors, and they become the characters, never once allowing you to doubt their ambition, their pride, and their guilt.
"Macbeth" is a play designed to make you think. It is meant to make you look at the interaction between greed and guilt, ambition and agony. It is meant to reflect the shadows of the human character, and to show what happens when we allow those shadows to overtake us. "Macbeth" done badly is a travesty - "Macbeth" done well is a genuine joy. Aquila does "Macbeth" better than well - they do it magnificently.
I sat in the audience last night, rapt as the story of Macbeth and his lady unfolded before me. I found myself eagerly anticipating certain scenes and certain lines, wanting to see how the cast created those moments. Not once was I disappointed. Not once did I wish a line had been delivered differently. I believed the characters. I believed the story. I believed in the downfall of a man gripped by ambition, and of a wife who served as the catalyst for it all.
The lighting was incredible, used to full advantage to showcase the actors. What was so lovely about it all, though, was the fundamental simplicity. With strategic lighting, a few well-chosen props, some understated costumes, and some profound acting, you were able to focus on the dialogue and the story. You were not distracted by artifice. It was you, some lights, some actors, and a story as old as humanity. It was Shakespeare at his finest, his words delivered by actors who could take nothing and make it into everything. It was simple and elegant and classical and talented and brilliant.
At the end of the show the cast received a standing ovation, and it was well deserved. So too I think Keyano Theatre deserves a standing ovation,for bringing such a marvelous production to our community. Quite often Fort Mac is denigrated as a place where arts and culture are not appreciated, or, even worse, completely absent. Last night was a direct rebuttal to this sentiment. Last night an audience of local residents enjoyed one of the most highly-regarded classical plays to grace a stage, and embraced it. As I said last night on Facebook the next time someone says there is no arts and culture here I think I will forego my usual reply and just smack them upside the head as clearly they have no idea of the reality - or maybe they just didn't see "Macbeth".
After the show there was an opening night reception with food from the Sawridge (once again wonderful food, beautifully presented and prepared), and champagne. There was also the opportunity to meet the actors, of which I took advantage. I thanked them for a magnificent production, and for coming to Fort McMurray. I suspect they may come to cities like this, in northern Canada, and wonder about the reaction their production will get, and about how their efforts will be appreciated. I think last night we showed them that we appreciate the arts, and we especially appreciate the arts done very, very well - as they do.
My only quibble, a very minor one directed at Keyano Theatre (and likely one only a writer would make), is to implore the employment of proof-readers. During intermission last night my companion and I were perusing the program. I was reading the synopsis of the play and was bemused when under Act 3, Scene 1, it indicated that "Banquo suspected Macbeth of fowl play". Now, again, maybe only a writer would notice this, but it led to much merriment with my companion and I as we debated how exactly we had missed the chickens in that scene. So, again a very minor issue, but here's the deal: if you really need a proof-reader, Keyano Theatre, fire it my way, and I will guarantee there will not be any fowl play ;)
People, all fowl play aside, this production of "Macbeth" is a must see. If you've ever wanted to see Shakespeare done in a way that is true and pure and simple then this is your chance. If you've ever wanted to see mesmerizing acting, this is your opportunity. If you've ever wanted to simply revel in Shakespeare's beautiful words, to hear the dialogue in a way that sings to your soul - then this is it. And if you've ever wanted to do it right here, in Fort Mac? Well, then, you better head to Keyano Theatre's ticketing website and get your tickets. There is a matinee today at 2 pm, another presentation this evening at 8 pm, and tomorrow at 7 pm - and then it's gone. Don't miss it, people. Don't make me come smack you upside the head. Go see "Macbeth" by Aquila Theatre, and enjoy. You can thank me later!
My sincere thanks to Keyano Theatre
for the invitation to attend "Macbeth",
and to Aquila Theatre for bringing
Shakespeare to the Fort McMurray stage!