MAKBET (MACBETH) – Horror Puppet Show, dir. Michał Derlatka, Teatr w Oknie / TwO Windows Theatre, Gdańsk, Poland. 5 October 2014.
Reviewed by Magdalena Cieślak
ShakespeareOFF was a series of events accompanying the 18th Gdańsk Shakespeare Festival, offering not only the “Off” versions of Shakespeare’s plays but also taking those shows “off” the theatres.
Teatr w Oknie, literally meaning “theatre in the window”, is by definition “off”. It does have an indoor stage but during the summer does most of its performances in the street outside, either having the actors performing literally “in the windows” of the Theatre or just in front of them. The Theatre is located in the main street of the Gdańsk Old Town, where tourists linger lazily on their way to the Neptune fountain and Motława river. This is where, taking a walk with my son, I stumbled upon Macbeth.
Macbeth –Horror Puppet Show lasted 15 minutes, and was shown to whoever was accidentally passing by; a risky thing, considering who might be constituting most of the audience on Sunday at 11 a.m. But then again, theatre is a risky business. My son, 6 years old, liked the show.
The stage – a small platform erected in the street, right at the Theatre’s windows – was promising and attracted the attention of passers-by. A big cauldron in the middle of the platform, in the back some bare branches with an animal skull stuck upon them, and a bloody stain in front of the platform – remains of previous performances – looked vaguely Wellesian (fig. 1). The show focused, as might be expected from the set, on the witches, and started with them concocting a magical potion in the cauldron. The cauldron remained the centre of the show as the
witches kept pulling puppets and accessories from it, animating the puppets, and making the magic of the theatre work. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were puppets looking like bronze masks or quasi sculptures: for Macbeth, it was a face, a sword, and then a crown (fig. 2), for Lady Macbeth, a big face and a naked torso (fig. 3). The witches were amazing animators, gracefully and nimbly moving the puppets, transparent as the animators but present as the witches. When Banquo was pulled from the cauldron – a small doll – the show got really scary as it was clear that this baby doll would have to die. It was killed in a truly horror-like fashion: Macbeth using a fork started pulling a red string from the doll’s head and weave it around the cauldron and the branches (fig. 4). Everybody shivered. My son asked what they were doing with the doll’s hair.
The show was meant to evoke the spirit of dance macabre, and it did so in broad daylight, in a busy street of Gdańsk Old Town. It captured the horror of terrible crimes, and the tragic essence of the rise and fall of Macbeth and his wife. It excellently used the witches as the narrative frame and the puppet animators. And visually, it was truly visionary, with its huge cauldron where magic of the theatre was concocted (fig. 5).
Photographs: Magdalena Cieślak