Recently, I went to Meadow Brook Theatre in Auburn Hills, Michigan to see an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. I was surprised to find that the director, John Manfredi choose to present this tragedy as a mix of historical and modern style.
Personally, I’ve never been a spectator of a Shakespeare play before that combined historical and modern methods together. It sounds like it would be a unique and creative, but experiencing it was awful!!!
When acting out a Shakespeare play, it has to be ALL HISTORICAL or ALL MODERN. No exceptions!!! No in betweens!!!
A historical Shakespeare play displays the way Shakespeare’s Renaissance audience saw it. Meaning costumes, technology, and props stay within the time period of the play. For example, if a character needs to see in the dark (and since there was no electricity in the 17th century) they will carry (or pretend to) a lantern or a torch. Also, the costumes should be authentic, right down to the accessories and shoes. The audience should feel as though they are looking back in time, magically catching a glimpse of the past. Nothing modern should be on stage; it will distract the flow of the atmosphere. Personally, I feel that historical is the accurate way for a Shakespeare play to be performed. He wrote what life was like in England during the Renaissance, and based a lot of his characters, on real people, that were alive during the Renaissance.
Not everyone can appreciate Shakespeare. I can understand and respect that. You’re taught from adolescence that Shakespeare is rigorous. It becomes intimidating and your brain automatically tells you, you can’t comprehend it. This is the reason why some directors choose to perform plays in a modern style.
A modern Shakespeare play will transform the scenes to modern day. The costumes, technology and props can be easily connected to the audience. Going back to my earlier example, if a character needs to see in the dark, in a modern adaptation, a light switch or a flash light will be used. The attire is up to date, along with the setting. Maybe instead of a castle a character now lives in a mansion. The audience feels that the story is taking place within their time. They are able to relate to the characters through their appearance, making it seem less intimidating and easier for the brain to comprehend the story line.
The Macbeth version I saw, was a combination of historical and modern. It was horrible! The mix of the two turned this dark tragedy into a comedy because it appeared absurd!
From outfits, to props everything was blended together. Lady Macbeth wore an elegant dress that depicted the Renaissance Era. While her husband Macbeth was straight out of an 80’s music video. He was wearing a white denim jacket that had silver studs bedazzled into the collar. The couple looked jumbled together and out of place.
During the fight scene’s there was sword fighting, gun explosives, and my favorite…karate chops! The fight scenes of Shakespeare plays in a tragedy story such as “Macbeth” should be intense and keep you on the edge of your seat. In Manfredi’s version, it was comical. How are you expected to take it seriously when it goes from one extreme (sword fighting) to another extreme (karate chops)?
In my opinion, Shakespeare would be rolling over in his grave, if he knew what Manfredi did to his work. Unless, you want to do a spoof of a Shakespeare play and have the audience laugh historically, then combine the two elements of historical and modern together. If you want your audience to take it seriously then it must be kept ALL HISTORICAL or ALL MODERN!!! No exceptions!!! No in betweens!!! To combine the two is horrible, no matter how unique it might sound.