Wyrd: The Season of the Witch – Ninefold change Macbeth forever. (Theatre Review)

Wyrd: The season of the Witch

PACT theatre for Emerging artists and Ninefold Theatre Company

You can find out more about this production here.

Images: Liam O’Keefe

It can be argued, since all theatre is a kind of parody of life no matter how verisimilar it may be, the most honest theatre might be that which acknowledges its separateness from text and from life. Distanced from the text, the audience can share, with the director (and through her the author) the pleasure of its imaginative creation. As with other great sanctified texts, the work of Shakespeare (in this case Macbeth) has formed a life separate from what its author intended. Shakespeare has become a God of sorts, a yet to be sacrificed Christ, his text sanctified in common parlance. Who better to debunk mysticism of this significance than the witch? In forcing recognition, parody emerges as an important extramural involvement. To quote another great parodist, Nabakov, “was ever hunting out the things which had once been fresh and bright but which were now worn to a thread, dead things among living ones; dead things shamming life, painted and repainted.”[1] Surely, we are in danger (if we have not already) of making Shakespeare one of these dead things? Leave it to metafiction and within that the parody emerging out of a realization of the literary inadequacies of certain conventions. Ninefold’s meta Macbeth unfolds as a necessary and creative process by which new forms appear to revitalise the tradition open up new possibilities to the artist. This parodic art is both a deviation from the norm and includes the norm within itself as background material. There is no doubt that Ninefolds Wyrd: The Season of the Witch is more enjoyable and engaging with a strong knowledge of Macbeth, even though it can be enjoyed without that layering.

Inside Ninefold’s approach to Macbeth the omniscient “authorial” narration becomes its own useful self-reflecting device. Shakespeare becomes his own unreliable narrator. The presence of an “authorial” narrative figure as mediator between audience world and text world demands the noticing of subsequent narrative distance. This then places emphasis on the storytelling itself. We become closer to the play Macbeth the more director Shy Magsalin leads us around it. The audience is temporally and spatially oriented in the fictional world by the performance; the performance as narration becomes a centre of internal reference and we know ourselves, via Macbeth, differently. Macbeth becomes fully realized through metafiction. For the audience a thematizing operation becomes central. Many aspects of the storytelling are used; structure, narrative, viewpoint, the process of composition, and speaking, singing and “sounding” into dramatically relevant emblems of the theme. Inside this then, Wyrd: The Season of the Witch becomes a mise en abyme echoing inside the audience of all the Macbeths gone before resulting in a reinterpretation of what is performed before us.

Often a mise an ebyme contains a critique of the text itself and thus it appears in Shy Magsalin’s Wyrd: The Season of the Witch. The title contains the nature of this criticism which occurs as a result of the repeated reduplication which naturally occurs over the top of all audience experiences. In the combination of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth provides a reflexive modality that transforms Shakespears character in to a reflection of the original story. This structural adjustment has the clever effect of casting the direction of the mise en abyme to past events both within and preceding this text. Because the audience carry the traces of Macbeth within us, the production is carried out by all agents present – performers and audience. While this may always be the case, with Wyrd: The Season of the Witch, this action rises to our awareness. It is multiple provocations such as this that combine to make Macbeth both recognizable and unfamiliar. In this way, the text is reinterpreted, reseen, reimagined and reunderstood without any clumsy didacticism.

At its core, this folding of itself back upon itself allows Wyrd: The Season of the Witch to expose Macbeth to a David Lynch style retelling that feels like the least of adjustments made, and a disarmingly natural one. Remarkable choral work, exciting use of movement, language and voice, and a connection to off center visuals make the production particularly compelling and confronting. Easily one of the best adaptations of Macbeth one is ever likely to see, an all-pervading sense that the three witches have transformed the play and the writer himself resides over the possibility of any future productions of Macbeth. For Sydney-siders this is an excellent opportunity to see the unique work of Ninefold performed with immaculate precision.

Shy Magsalin calls forth exciting performances from her entire cast who work wonders with no set and little cash resources. Of particular note are Erica Brennan as the first witch and Victoria Greiner as Our Lady, but it feels redundant to single out any one cast member as Ninefold’s primary strength derives from its unique performance stylings and its adherence to precision. The work is mighty in scope and as ruthlessly ambitious as its central character. Ninefold’s manifesto can be read here, and it is worth a fast read. This is a truly thrilling ensemble to watch and their Wyrd: The Season of The Witch one of the stand out performances in Sydney in 2018.

[1] Nabakov, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight

References: Narcissitic Narrative: The Metafictional Paradox (Linda Hutchinson); Time and Narrative (Paul Ricoeur)

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