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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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“A dagger of the mind”

Actors from the London Stage performed Macbeth in Rudder Theater Thursday evening.
Photo by Cody Franklin
Actors from the London Stage performed “Macbeth” in Rudder Theater Thursday evening. Photo by Cody Franklin

Twenty-nine roles, five actors, one performance — “Macbeth” graced the stage of Rudder Theater Thursday night.
The performance, put on by the Actors from the London Stage, was met with an almost full house. Two and a half hours later, the troupe was met with a standing ovation, one that was sincerely deserved.
The actors are only able to act with what they can carry overseas in a suitcase or what the theater department at Texas A&M can offer them. In Shakespeare’s time, the plays at least had a permanent house, funding for a set and limited costumes. The performance Thursday mirrored a performance from Shakespeare’s time with only a half circle of chairs as setting, a few props strategically placed and three long red scarves in the center of the stage which were later revealed to be costume pieces for the three witches.
The costumes were minimal, but there were still distinctions from one character to the next, which is particularly impressive because most characters in “Macbeth” are male and soldier-like.
The play made the challenge of performing with a limited number of actors look easy. None of the actors left the stage except for intermission and some had to change personality in a matter of seconds, shifting mannerisms and even accents seamlessly.
The demonstration of acting ability was an extra treat for the show, but the show would not have appealed to blood-thirsty 17th century Shakespearean fans. The final fight scene between the now mad Macbeth and Macduff involves a sword fight to the death, but the actors added a deliberate twist by never actually touching.
They stood on either side of the stage, circling each other with swords raised. They then began to pantomime a fight scene, acting and reacting as though they were inches from each other. While those who attended expecting to see sword-to-sword combat likely walked away disappointed, the choreography of the scene cannot be ignored. The scene and actors were lined up perfectly, blow for blow. Even the reactions of stabbing were well done.
While the actors did a credible job of bringing Shakespeare into three dimensions, there was still a bit lost in translation. As an American audience, or any modern day audience, shifting the mind to think in Elizabethan English takes a few scenes, and by then, some of the audience may have been lost. In some Shakespearean performances, the actors work to make sure the audience understand every word and follow along with the plot. In Thursday’s performance, there was no hand-holding.
This is both positive and negative. Shakespeare is not easy to understand or to convey and even the first scenes lended to this confusion, as “Macbeth” begins with exposition instead of action. With more focus on characterization, the audience felt the play, even if they didn’t understand all the details. The emotions were there, just not all of the action.
Unfortunately, this may have confused some members of the audience. For me, it was different, but in a good way. When I see “Macbeth” again, it will be a different story, a different interpretation. I’ll have two sets of memories, both of which I can enjoy.
“Macbeth” at A&M was a one night only event. The Actors from the London Stage have been coming to A&M at least for the last three years, if not longer. If you missed the performance, or attended and enjoyed yourself, go let Shakespeare professors know so that the actors come back. Shakespeare in Aggieland should continue, if only for the fans like me that can’t get enough of the Bard and his work.

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