By Judith van Berkom –
Imagine a beautiful warm summer’s evening in Clare Gardens Park, a crowd is gathered in front of an impromptu stage, with props, costumes and special effects behind the audience in preparation for 90 minutes of Shakespeare, in celebration of his 400th anniversary. Voices softly sing in the background, setting the stage for Bear & Co.’s cast. At precisely 7 p.m., the play begins. Adults sit in comfortable lawn chairs, babies on blankets, coolers with drinks and snacks, people on bikes stop to look and listen.
In the month of July, Clare and Hintonburg Parks were transformed with the magic of Macbeth; songs and swords, skullduggery, and fire witches.
The production features a number of local residents. Chris McLeod plays Macbeth and directed the sword fighting; Rachel Eugster, director of music, sang and played Banquo. Doreen Taylor-Claxton was Macbeth’s lady.
Both Rachel and Doreen are well-known sopranos in the city. Zoe Georgaras is fire choreographer for Bear & Co and was joined by Alexis Scott and Sarah Waisvisz as the three witches who invited the audience into 12th century Scotland – a time in history where the sword ruled. Daniel Claxton, a student at Canterbury High School, rounded out the cast, bringing his youth and his lovely singing voice to the role of Malcolm.
Seasoned director, Eleanor Crowder, conjured a world of sound and fury, reviving all of the savagery and tenderness to bring this story to life. This is not the Macbeth you read in high school.
However, if you missed the performances at Clare Park or Hintonburg this summer, the same cast will perform Macbeth at the Gladstone Theatre from September 28 to October 1, with shows at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and additional matinees on Saturday at 2:30 pm and Thursday, September 29 at 12:30 p.m. They will be reaching out to teachers to bring school trips, particularly those teaching Macbeth in the school year.
The (indoor) production at the Gladstone won’t showcase the full fiery experience of the park production and the transparency that comes from having all back stage business visible behind the audience, but being indoors with stage lighting and no mosquitoes or rain will create a different kind of intimacy.
Two other companies are doing Shakespeare-related works at the Gladstone this fall, given that this is the 400th anniversary year since Shakespeare’s death. Three Sisters Theatre Company will perform Desdemona: A Play about a Handkerchief, and after Macbeth, Plosive Productions will present Romeo and Juliet Redux.