By Nick Fracaro
“To act is to murder.” – Antonin Artaud
Most often production concepts of Macbeth center on the “ambitious couple.” But ambition is at best a petty vice. And, as such, well matched with theater, most often practiced as a petty virtue.
The erratic continuity between a life in art and a career in art makes it easy to eventually end the “ambitious” pursuit of one for the other. Careers ultimately secure positions here or there. These positions often mimic one’s life in art well enough to supplant it. At the spectrum’s other end, a life in art will eventually isolate you from all your peers except for the most kindred circle.
We find ourselves moving toward the center of the Scottish play (and its curse) from these two poles (career in art & life in art) simultaneously. The kingdom of art is full of ambiguities, contradictions, and mumbo-jumbo critical doublespeak. A domain both fair and foul. A realm predicated on continual rebellions against tradition and hordes of usurping wannabes.
At one end of the kingdom in the field of war is the soldier Macbeth. At the other end of the stage in the castle of potential domesticity is Lady Macbeth. But in this world that “cannot be ill; cannot be good” and where “nothing is but what is not” the two will conflate yet never touch.
As two spent swimmers that do cling together
And choke their art
Within the theater Lady Macbeth begins her Butoh dance on stage beneath the actor’s circle of light. Her dance is a letter is a prayer is an incantation, a slow movement toward her soldier husband. Outside in the public square Macbeth also begins his most dangerous spectacle.
They have tied me to a stake: I cannot fly,
But, bear-like, I must fight the course.
Cast from within career ambition, the metaphysical prodding of the text is experienced as “the curse” as its reality blindsides one’s everyday la-de-dah life and politics. Elsewhere, from the other direction in a karmic way, the script enters as the “creative accident,” part and parcel of the exploration of a life in art. The sacred fool is both cursed and blessed.
All is fair and foul with this magic. All is the actor’s body revolving within the actor’s circle of light. “Nothing is but what is not” until the actor stirs. Then King Duncan la-dee-dah needs to die.
The couple’s movement toward each other never consummates. Lady Macbeth can endure in the dance no longer. As she collapses, the egg she has been carrying in her mouth throughout the performance falls and cracks open on the floor. She picks up the yolk from the floor. Her hand lifts it upward. She squeezes all her life into a fist of defiant love.
Macbeth has carried the small fish from the aquarium in his mouth on the journey. The aquarium water has become all saliva by now. Macbeth dances out into the river until the water is chin high. He opens his mouth as if to speak for the first time. The river enters the head of Macbeth and redeems the fish.