Killers and victims swirl. An ambitious production of Macbeth / Day was created in Tallinn

Watching William Shakespeare Makbeta production in Tallinn, whose next few performances (currently twelve, which are shown in blocks of six) are sold out until next January, it inevitably comes to mind that Mikhail Chekhov’s Riga Russian Theater is now preparing other Shakespearean tragedies – Hamlet – a production given the genre designation “wartime chronicle”. The Estonian creative team, which created a special production in an unconventional playground – a concert hall, could also choose the same label. Estonia, which is located in the same building as the National Opera.

Makbets is an ambitious project: there is an orchestra on stage under the leadership of our well-known conductor Olari Elts, behind the orchestra there is a video screen on which the close-ups of the characters filmed by three video operators are projected, but the action itself takes place on the tongues of a fashion show, which divides the parterre into six sectors. The actors are above the audience, and lucky those sitting in front, because there the seats are turned perpendicular to the stage and it is possible to see both video and live acting in the entire volume of the hall. It would certainly be interesting to watch the show from the balcony as well.

Undamned show

Macbeth In recent years, Latvian theaters have not been successful with particularly many productions, although in 1981, a nicely designed translation by Vizma Belševica was published. Director Vladislava Nastasheva in the 2013 production at the Valmiera Drama Theater Makbets was interested as an opportunity to shout out what he had accumulated on his heart, and the play was very significantly deconstructed. In 2016, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Makbets It was staged by Viesturs Meikšāns at the Latvian National Opera and Ballet. Legend has it that Makbets the play is said to be cursed, but Lithuanian director Eimunts Nekrošus and Polish cinema and theater director Andrzej Wajda have tackled it (I was lucky enough to see his production in Krakow). The new big production of directors Ene Līsa Semper and Tīt Ojaso, made in Tallinn, does not look cursed in any way.

The structure of the production is determined by the idea of ​​combining the text of Shakespeare’s tragedy in a slightly expanded version with compositions by Lepo Sumer and Jay Schwartz, which were written independently but fit well into the concept. The prologue written by Haso Krull, as well as the quotations from other authors included in the play, unfortunately, as a non-Estonian speaker, I can only evaluate phonetically: it sounds like sailing words, and a man’s voice speaks it in complete darkness. However, in general, if the plot is known, there is no need to be afraid of the show in a foreign language, assuming, of course, that the nuances disappear. Lepo Sumera (1950–2000) entered the history of Estonian music as a pioneer of electronic music who used a computer to compose. His repertoire includes six symphonies, three instrumental concertos, smaller works for orchestra, cantatas and ballets. The author of the piece used for the epilogue is Jay Schwartz, an American composer living in Europe.

Ene Leesa Semper and Titus Ojaso are a tandem that once became known for theater NO 99 – a vivid phenomenon also outside the Estonian context – which no longer exists as of 2019, because its creators themselves decided that their path in this format is over. in Macbeth Ene Līsa Semper and Tīts Ojaso are responsible for the show’s direction, artistic presentation and video design.

War and Charon’s Boat

The very beginning of the play emphasizes the fact that the action takes place in wartime. King Duncan, dressed in a Scottish yellow and brown checkered mantle (later Macbeth would have the same mantle), stands out against the overall black, white and red color palette. Macbeth gets his first titles as a hero in battle, and the next is already the fruit of the greed fueled by the witches – he, encouraged by Lady Macbeth, decides to kill. Watching this production, I had to think a lot about Shakespeare’s demarcation between the everyday life of a soldier, killing his enemies in battle, and the moment when he decides to kill his closest associates. Later, world literature will include characters whose mental trauma will also be rooted in killing enemies in war, but Macbeth does not have such. He is a hero until he gets around to killing the king.

Ene Leesa Semper and Titus Ojaso do not shy away from the depiction of a parallel world where there are even more spirits than just three witches. In addition, along with spirits, the directors also introduced the character of Charon, who takes the killed to eternity. Surprisingly, the known inevitable props are not annoying, because the form of the show allows it to be told exactly like an ancient legend, while still maintaining its relevance. For example, to highlight the musical passage as self-important, the scene in the second act unfolds in which the murderers arrive at Lady Macduff and her children, a small boy and an infant, represented by a chicken coop. In the context of the play, it is a scene that tends to be omitted because it is not crucial to the development of the main plot. In the Tallinn performance, the scene in which the murderers remove the black cloths from those condemned to death, leaving them in white linen, and place them on a platform pulled by Charon – a laundry boat – becomes one of the most emotional peaks of the production, besides, there is no text here, only music and precisely planned action.

Another powerful finding is the whirling characteristic of the Sufi dervishes, which both the living and the dead characters indulge in at the end of the first act. Dervishes do not care about their personality, but only devotion to the ritual, whereas in the play, each character whirls, following the character traits of his character: the already dead Duncan spins like a heavy engine driven, his son, the runaway prince, – more modestly, Lady Macbeth – with a precisely fixed hand position, etc. .

Focusing attention on certain directing techniques, one may get the impression that the show consists mostly of musical numbers and bright effects, but it is not. The production has a precise structure, and the author’s message about the gradual path to power, which is also the path to destruction, is preserved. The Macbeth couple played by Maita Malmsten and Helen Lotman are not monsters at all, they are attractive people who cannot resist the illusion created by ambition that all means are good in the struggle for power. This is an ensemble performance, in which the accuracy of the acting (the video close-ups do not allow blurring) is combined with the creativity of the staging. Macbeth is killed without a fight, only to be covered in a white cloth like a museum exhibit. But the show does not end with his death. In the epilogue, all the participants of the show strip down to their underwear and reproduce various sculptures to the accompaniment of music: ancient Greek and Roman motifs, as well as the violently expressive gestures of Michelangelo Pietà and Gustav Vigelann, can be sensed here. Thus, Shakespeare’s tragedy is placed in a larger context.

Makbets is a valuable experience that once again proves the relevance of the classics without relegating the action to a specific modern environment. It is to be hoped that the scheduled blocks of performances are not the last.


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