Macbeth – Pop-Up Globe reveals Shakespeare as he is meant to be. (Theatre Review)
Pop Up Globe Sydney 2018: Macbeth
Entertainment Quarter Sydney From September 5
Macbeth is a brief yet linguistically dense tragedy of Shakespeare’s, written immediately after the death of Queen Elizabeth and the ascension of James of Scotland who was the new monarch and Shakespeare’s patron. Witches were all the rage, as was a surface misogyny whose business it was to re write the successes of Elizabeth first as overblown or attributed to male advisers. Elizabeth was no shrinking violet and had presided over an enormously successful England, and ‘male power’ was under threat – a little like it was when Hillary Clinton dared to run for President of the United States. It was back in vogue to think of women as breeders and nurturers rather than managers and leaders. As with the backlash films of the 1980’s, plays, books and songs had to written to incite fear of females in power, and Macbeth falls neatly into this style of popular narrative. The ascension of woman triggers a fundamental instability inside the underpinning of popular (and controlling) narratives, particularly as it naturally evokes a separate origin equivalent of ‘humanity.’ This schizophrenic assembly of disparate contents evokes a fear as old as humanity itself; that of ‘difference.’
At the start of King James’ reign, witchcraft was in the air. The terrifying mysticism of (some) women had to be contained, or at the very least, warned against. King James had written a treatise on the subject himself and was very much a believer. In the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, treason was also topical. Therefore, a play which combined a Scottish King, treason, witchcraft and a duplicitous woman whose political advice results in death is very much en vogue for the day.
The irony is context and the Pop-Up Globe theatre reveals context is the best way to see Shakespeare these days. Overwhelmed for choice on the Bards plays, going ‘back to basics’ surprisingly provides a fresh perspective on the works. It is surely a sign of the times that Shakespeare is becoming more a product of his age and less am emblem of the timeless literary. Yet, there is some comfort in this for some of us. Locating Shakespeare in his time and place (as this spectacular structure does) brings back the frivolity and the joy of his work, while equally revealing its limitations for today’s adaptations. In a world where diversity is broadening cultural stimulation, putting Shakespeare back into the Globe (and subsequently taking it around the globe) makes perfect sense. Soon, we may be brave enough to release him from our schools and learn to embrace his context all together. That will be a happy day for many of us.
The Pop-up Globe theatre is a wonderful success. For founders’ Miles Gregory and Tobias Grant, the purpose was to transport us back in time to see 400-year-old texts in a 350-year-old theatre – just as we should understand and experience Shakespeare. None of the beauty is lost, none of the respect, none of the integrity – but included is in the lightheartedness, the (hilarious) audience hierarchy and the extraordinary acoustics. It should not be that placing Shakespeare in context is a revelation, but the Pop-Up Globe exposes just that. There is something remarkably accessible about these plays when placed in context. It’s an accessibility that reunites us with the man who wrote and saves us from cultish approbation.
I was fortunate enough to catch Macbeth, but also available are A Midsummer Nights Dream, The Merchant of Venice and The Comedy of Errors. Go and enjoy a playful, beautiful evening at this glorious playhouse – and take friends!