MacBeth: Tragedy for your delight

Saturday March 16 2013

MacBeth: Tragedy for your delight

Macduff (Dr Dick Stokley) calms Banquo (Brain Emurwon) after the murder of King Duncan. Photo by Brian Magoba. 

By Brian Magoba

Two hours is how long watching the stage version of MacBeth takes. It is also the average duration for a good Indian movie. The similarity between the two is that one needs subtitles, mental or otherwise, to decode much of what is being said in either case.

Shakespeare’s English is taxing enough to native speakers who live today instead of when he lived. So, the average Ugandan whose English competency is littered with spoonerisms and malapropisms should not spend their money going to watch the version that Angela Emurwon, Catherine Meyer and Tom Adlam are putting on at the National Theatre. Evron directed the play while Meyer and Adlam produced it.

But for those who either read the text for recreational purposes or as compulsory readings during Drama or English class, hark fast to remind your mind about the tragedy of a good man destroyed by a combination of his scheming wife and his deep-seated ambition to be more man than was his original station.

As literally dark as the play is—painstaking attention is devoted to synchronizing the lights with the play’s generally dark mood—the niche audience who acquired a taste for higher-end drama can at least look forward to what promises to be 7 stellar performances from the hugely talented cast.

There is Lady MacBeth’s (Rehema Nanfuka) syllable-by-syllable interpretation and delivery of her every line, complete with an expressiveness that makes it seem like the rest of the cast are just tagging along while she commands the stage with her entrancing performance.

Macbeth (Tom Adlam) himself is a good match for her. His transformation from a hen-pecked General to a calculative, ruthless tyrant shows off his experience directing others to achieve the same accuracy in portraying changes in character’s fortunes that he displays.

Between MacBeth and his face constantly attaining a rictus of fury as he realises his imminent doom, and Lady MacBeth coming from a lacy-voiced instigator of chaos to a demented wreck, Adlain and Nanfuka give the play good foundation.

Then there is Patrick Nkakaalukanyi, who delighted in the musical Music and Me. Even in relatively minor roles (he doubles as a contract killer and the Scottish thane Angus) he still brings just the right amount of gravitas to distinguish himself from the pack.

There are no drop microphones like is becoming the fad in other theatres all over town. This means every word is projected, and should be heard by the person furthest from the performer.

Thus, poetry aficionados will be thrilled, while the theatre-goers who debate and conduct reunions during plays will not be.

MacBeth started yesterday, and will show today, March 21, 22, and end its run on 23. Tickets range between Shs15,000 to Shs20,000 for adults, and Shs5,000 to Shs10,000 for students, depending on the performance date and time.