Je dois revoir les soeurs fatales

d'Lëtzebuerger Land du 04.10.2007

The Tour Vagabonde finally opened its doors on Monday for the opening night of MacBeth, a production by the Belgian company Arsenic. In fact, they did not only supply the actors and the director, but also brought their own space: a squat, wooden tower that will soon travel to various places in both Belgium and France. It had been standing there enigmatically for quite some time: round like The Globe, though with a covered roof and without any standing room for groundlings. A smallish, deluxe version you might think as you sit down, until MacBeth is steeped in blood, once murder follows upon murder and you feel the atmosphere become unpleasantly hot – if you are sitting upstairs, that is. The stage has been cleverly designed with smallish platforms set at different levels and angles; they are se­parated by almost vertical wooden beams going off in all sorts of directions, somehow suggesting the chaos that is to ensue. Individual scenes function as so many tableaux happening in these various spaces. “Dans ce lieu magique je vous invite à entrer dans le cerveau tourmenté de MacBeth, un homme confronté à ses choix – comme nous tous.” On the one hand, the opening sentence the audience heard that evening announced Arsenic's take on Shakes­peare's shortest tragedy; on the other, it asked everyone to concentrate on the humanity rather than the monstrosity of the hero-villain. Director Axel De Booseré set the play as an intimate, private experience, a journey into hell that is about to destroy two people and their marriage. The martial scenes, which Elizabethans loved so much, have been cut; the scene at the English court, the only one set outside Scotland, has radically been shortened. We see MacBeth (an excellent Patrick Lerch) come home from the battlefield in full glory only to be tempted by the weird sisters, who have become disembodied voices whispering to him in both cajoling and seductive tones. Are they not, perhaps, merely putting into words the hopes he has secretly been harbouring for quite some time? With her hedgehog hairstyle and assured energy Lady MacBeth (a very versatile Mireille Bailly) appears as ‘action woman' even before she implores the spirits “that tend on mortal thoughts” to unsex her. MacBeth, who is both palpably terrified and calculating, turns away in horror when she works herself up into a frenzy, describing how she would dash her own baby's brains out had she sworn to do so. Ready to run the show, she demonstrates perfect doubleness when she welcomes poor Duncan under her battlements. While a bloody face appears to MacBeth even before he kills, she seems to be in control, secretly burning with fierce intensity until she breaks down over Banquo's murder. MacBeth has traditionally been seen as Shakespeare's darkest play. In this production the whole theatre is literally plunged in darkness until the very last moment. Faces lit from below add an eerie quality to the action, whereas at times shadows and other light effects remind you of classic horror movies. Unfortunately, though, too often the French text cannot keep up with the power and urgency of the Shakes­pearean lines; thick clusters of imagery and haunting juxtapositions get lost in translation: hearing the Thane of Cawdor being referred to as “le baron de Cawdor” sounds odd. “It will have blood, they say, blood will have blood” becomes “Le sang appelle le sang”, while “We are yet but young in deed” translates as “Nous sommes encore jeunes dans le crime.” What the language lacks in terms of poetry has, however, swiftly been compensated for by both rhythm and tempo and, above all, by the brilliant use made of the puppets specially created by Czech artist Petr Forman: small figures replace the onlookers in the so-called chorus scenes, others snigger at MacBeth's lines about the curse of (his own) infertility, while large moon-faced creatures become silent killers, the very henchmen any tyrant depends on. Later we see a Lady MacBeth puppet slowly tumbling through the air during the “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” speech only to be held and cradled by the erstwhile national hero before he throws her off and gets ready to fight the allied troops that are besieging his castle. By that time he seems to be literally tied to a stake, wishing anarchy upon the world though he will ultimately only reap his own destruction. Since Malcolm's final rousing speech has been cut, Scotland is not granted a new beginning, at least not for the time being. Le gâchis d'une vie: Arsenic's MacBeth is a contempora­ry psychodrama about nothingness rather than a historical melodrama. So don't forget! Should you be lucky enough to have a ticket for either tonight or tomorrow, make sure you grab a downstairs seat or wear the flimsiest summer clothes your wardrobe holds. Only then will you be able to plunge headlong into the murky mind of one of the most tortured serial killers in the canon.


Janine Goedert
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