Our voices were swept away by the darkness which descended. Unfamiliar bodies all around us. Eerily facing the same way, towards expectation. A table appeared before us, with people in various poses. Some seated in muted conversation, others captured by their own thoughts, one crowned. Then the three began to speak… and the play began its melancholy and murderous plot.
The Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Macbeth or – to those cast and crew most aware of its suspicious tendency towards the supernatural… The Scottish Play – had of course excellent performances. It naturally let Hugo Weaving develop from a successful but flawed hero of the sword-churned battlefield into the hollow-hearted villain we see on the battlements looking down on Burnham Wood. I truly wish I could have taken my English classes to this production so they could see a masterclass in lighting, props and the rest.
What was most confronting for me… what the audience was most likely chatting about before the dark held sway… was the backdrop. For in this production the audience was seated on the stage of the mighty Sydney Theatre – about 300 of us – close enough to literally touch a scheming Lady Macbeth or the man himself as he is seduced and enchanted by the prophecies of the weird sisters.
But those chairs… those places of safety from which the audience can peer or laugh or scream. So many emotions felt and minds set alight by the creativity generator at its highest gear when great stories are told so well. The ideas or beliefs challenged in our minds as we hear familiar voices express unfamiliar or unpleasant ideas. How do we feel and how do we think when Lady Macbeth begs for the light in her soul to be extinguished for the sake of ev’lly-gained power? The sheer volume of human experience must coalesce into near tangible bodies of knowledge, experience, ideas, emotions.
It was as if these bodies sat facing us as we stared into the empty seats behind the stage. Hundreds and hundreds of empty seats brimming with past minds and hearts, thousands of tears or giggles or shocked intakes of breath, the result of the waves of creative power washing over us like a solar flare. So many memories made and left behind, so many moments of clarity or moments of enlightenment. The idea of communal experience around a single focal point is something so often dispersed in today’s breathless pace.
Those seats hold the potential being of future audiences as much as memories of past. An immeasurable well of humanity writhing in passion with the ideas flaring from the stage. Those seats make demands of us as an audience, as a society, and as individuals. Their stare eyeless at us, silently screaming for us to exist, to think, and to imagine.
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A theory that struck me some time after the players had left, the audience removed itself, the lights were out…
Did Macbeth experience a medieval form of Inception? The theme being that when you can gain access to the mind of a person, an idea can be planted as if they had thought of it themselves. Though Macbeth relies on the prophecies of the witches to fuel his plans and actions, it was they who placed the idea in his mind that he would be Cawdor, that he would be king. Once that idea was in place, it was unshakeable and his ambition had truly been set alight – with a great deal of petrol added from Lady Macbeth – which had not shown itself before the events of the Scottish Play.
Just a theory.