Butchered down, but bloody good

Adapted classics can often be disconcerting experiences for audiences, and particularly so when one attempts to dust off timeless masterpieces such as Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, introducing dances and choirs in doing so. This was director Benoit Malmberg’s gamble, as he led his troupe, the Romeo and Julia choir, in a perplexing display of ‘The Scottish Play’ at Helsingør’s Kronborg castle earlier this month.

 

Yet the perplexed audience – witnessing a six-hour play performed in just over 70 minutes, skipping many emblematic scenes – will not be able to deny it was witness to a stunning delivery. 

 

Malmberg and his crew offered graceful singing scenes with compelling vocal performances from the entire cast, drawing from the repertoire of 16th century composer Clément Janequin. The lyrics of Janequin’s most famous composition, ‘La Guerre’ – depicting the rise of French King François I as he vanquishes the Milanese troops in 1515 at Marignan – are a perfect match for themes so famously depicted in ‘Macbeth’: the lust for power, anger, and ambition and its vanity.

 

The physical performance of the cast was also noteworthy. Dancing scenes, though somewhat tacky in their choreography, were lively and intelligently placed within the play, mostly taking place during the banquet at which Macbeth encounters Banquo’s ghost. 

 

The austere and humbling decorum of the courtyard of Kronborg Castle further highlighted the cast’s acting. Urban Wedin, appearing mostly shirtless in the icy Helsingør winds, depicted an elegant and vibrant Macbeth, while Johana Tibblin flawlessly enacted the deranged and emotional wife of the Scottish general/king.

 

First-time Shakespeare audiences might be lost in translation while the purists might take offence at some of Malmberg’s unusual directing – he appears in costume, throughout the play, waving his hands as an orchestra maestro to guide his cast through song and dance. But the final product remains a pleasant and fine-looking show, contributing further to the timeless stature of Shakespeare’s most hardened tragedy. 

 

Benoit Malmberg’s production of ‘Macbeth’ played at  Kronborg Castle from August 7-8 as part of a mini Shakespeare season organised by Hamletscenen.

 

Macbeth

 




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