Post Show Thoughts – Ninagawa Macbeth 2017

Ningawa
Ninagawa Macbeth

I love Shakespeare’s tragedies, all for different reasons and for different seasons. Macbeth’s theme of destruction brought forth by ambition unchecked by moral constraints seemed especially apt in current climates.

For the uninitiated, Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest, most compressed tragedies. The title character Macbeth was driven by his and his wife’s ambition and lust for power into murdering the benevolent King Duncan. The act of murder eventually leads to more acts of violence and deaths, culminating in the eventual death of the title character. This is gist of the play, for more information, Google has the answer!

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Ninagawa Company’s Macbeth, created in 1980, and premiered in 1985’s Edinburgh Festival was a resounding success and introduced the late Yukio Ninagawa to an international audience, with critics and audiences applauding the director for his “bold gestures and painterly beauty”.

This restaging at Esplande was especially profound as it marked the 1st anniversary of the director’s death.

Ninagawa Macbeth – Esplanade Theatre

When news was released that Ninagawa Macbeth would be coming to Singapore, I got especially excited and determined to catch it, and decided to drag Siti Z along. Luckily for us, we managed to snatch the last few tickets for Stalls, and we were not disappointed.

Upon entrance, we were immediately greeted by this ornate frame onstage.

This was a good sign of the impressive things to come because it’s not often you get productions that pay this much attention to setting the mood right.

As the theatre etiquette abiding patron we are, this would unfortunately be the only picture i have to show for the entire production. Everything else is in my head, and someday, when some young punks decide to ask me what was the most impressive stage production I’ve ever seen, this would be one of them…

This is going to be one of the few plays I will always remember.

It really is achingly beautiful. Throw in the fact that this is a play by play reproduction of the original production designed in the 80s; albeit with a different cast (yeah, this was a point that was strangely reinforced to me..), there were no signs of the production being dated at all.

To further illustrate the point, refer to the pictures below –

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Photo credit – Takahiro Watanabe
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Photo credit – South China Morning Post

Photo credits – Takahiro Watanabe
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Photo credit – ST online
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Photo credit –  Sistic
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Photo credit – Takahiro Watanabe

Now, to be quite honest, I fell asleep a bit in the first half.

It had nothing to do with the production, its more like my personal standard of conduct… I nod off after like 30mins into ANY FREAKING production and usually wake up about 10minutes later, so I always try and watch long shows with a buddy, so you know… in case I start snoring and what not.. So yes.. the point is I can be quite useless.

The reason why I brought up this point was because I was so impressed with the the sets, costumes, the music and the actors that I lasted longer than usual, and dozed for shorter because I didn’t want to miss a single thing.. every single bit of the production was just  breathtaking. There were so many things to see and absorb, and was done with such consideration, it was like watching poetry unfold onstage.

There were many, many scenes that left a great big impression on me, but the fight scenes, those struck me the most –  cherry blossom tree in the background with its flowers falling softly as men clashed metals beneath it, some dying out of duty and others of belief. The contrast between the serenely falling petals and the bloodbath beneath it was especially poignant in a play that seems fascinated with death.

The accompanying music for the entire performance sounded like a mix of western classics coupled with what I though reminded me of Buddhist chants, haunted me. It was a constant reminder that death is near but coupled with the weeping cherry blossoms and my personal perception of Buddhist chants, it was also a reminder that in death, there can be peace and solace too. It took a long while for that to sink in because again, peace and solace seemed to have no place in Macbeth’s world.

At a point in my life where I feel like I needed everything to be perfect and aligned, where things are beginning to frustrate, Ninagawa Macbeth carried more meaning to me than just an aesthetically appealing production.

It was a reminder of life’s shortness and of its impermanence.

Wabi-sabi

I did not want to write a review for this production because it already has many raving reviews by professional critics, I don’t think any review that I do will ever do the beauty and grace of this production any justice. Theatre is an experience that differs person to person, and this was a very enlightening experience for me. It too me very long to be able to get this out because for me, the experience transcended the theatre, it was a reminder of life but to some readers, it may seem to much of an exaggeration. All I want to conclude with, is that if the chance to watch this production again ever arises, I’d do so without a doubt.

And if you have the chance to catch it, you probably should. However go in with an open heart and mind, create your own experience and meaning because it’ll mean more that way, don’t be a douche and go in because its the hottest ticket in town. That would be an insult and disgrace to theatre.

 

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