By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Macbeth Muet (Stage 9, Telus Phone Museum)
Imaginative, ingenious, startlingly powerful: that’s the high-impact 50-minute version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth delivered to us by Montreal’s La Fille du Laitier.
In one way Macbeth Muet (mute), the co-creation of Jon Lachlan Stewart (who directs) and Marie Hélène Bélanger, is playfully, cleverly, minimalist. Two resourceful, physically eloquent actors (Jérémie Francoeur and Clara Prévost) with chalky faces preside over a long white table. And they create the players and the violent action of Shakespeare’s swift and bloody tragedy from an assortment of simple household objects: table-cloth, knives, Styrofoam cups and plates, playing cards, oven mitts, a line drawing of a crown on a piece of paper, their own scrabbling fingers. And eggs, lots of eggs.
And it dispenses with Shakespeare’s words altogether.
In another way, though, Macbeth Muet is surprisingly ample. It’s brutal, violent, and sexy. The production actually does mayhem, viscerally; it doesn’t just report the aftermath of mayhem. And, weirdly, it’s emotionally fulsome in a way you rarely see in Macbeth. The idea of falling in love and sex and families and children — the Macbeths, the Banquos, the Macduffs — gets special attention (and a series of “prologues” interspersed throughout).
The eggs: In Macbeth Muet, the violent brutality is imagined back to the thought, played out, that the Macbeths have been changed, forever, by their own tragic loss of children. As the ex-war hero and his wife opt for a murderous campaign to get their mitts on the crown and keep it, more eggs meet terrible ends. The horror and the heartbreak of it will stop you in your tracks in ways you can’t anticipate.
It’s a messy show; gore splatters over the actors, the table, the screen at the back. In a ritual at the outset, Prévost and Francoeur assist each other into white fitted barber smocks (à la Sweeney Todd).
It’s an inventive kind of found-object puppetry, and the human agency of it is the point. Macbeth’s BFF Banquo is a paper plate with black eyes (his son is a small dessert-plate size version). The stalwart Macduff is a hockey glove, and his wife is an oven mitt. And those eggs….
It all begins with the witches, folded-up black paper, and a haunting — assisted materially by the lighting and the shadow play on the screen. And the banquet scene in which Banquo’s ghost appears and unnerves the assassin king, who is gradually reducing himself to mindless barbarism, has its own ingenuity, too.
You won’t be able to take your eyes off Macbeth Muet. Or your ears. It may be wordless but it’s not soundless. Lachlan Stewart’s rich sound design samples widely, and wittily, from pop and rock, vintage and modern jazz, be-bop, ragtime, musical theatre, dissonant classical riffs — all precisely timed to the high-speed volley of events and mood changes.
Macbeth Muet is a big, juicey theatrical experience in a tiny package. Exactly what the Fringe, at its best, is for. Take advantage. Don’t miss.