Dubai - The play provides an immersive theatrical experience with scenes happening simultaneously.
All hail, Macbeth! And if you think you are in for the same old classic Shakespearean tragedy, take note, for the UAE audiences will get to hail him in a completely different way on Friday.
A total of 27 women are coming together to bring to life the story of Macbeth, set in the UAE corporate world, which means you won't be seeing a sword and dagger tussle in a typical 17th century setting in this classic tragedy of ambition and power. Instead, what you'll get to see is board members of Scotland Corp., a security and surveillance company, punching, kicking and stabbing people with box cutters as they struggle for power, with Macbeth seizing control in the most unorthodox fashion.
Unlike a traditional stage-seat scenario, this play provides an immersive theatrical experience with scenes happening simultaneously, as the audience is allowed to roam around the space and engage with the cast.
Macbeth, produced by Constellation Productions and the UAE Ministry of Culture & Knowledge Development, in partnership with the British Council as part of the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration, will tour three emirates over three weekends, where the setting will be integrated into each location.
The female-dominated format of the play not only gives power to the performers (all female), it also reflects the power, women in the UAE have, and how Emirati women play vital roles in corporations and government entities. "Sadly, in the 21st century, there are only a few good parts for women (in plays). So to play Macbeth with an all-female cast gives an opportunity for actors to show what they can do," said the play's artistic director, Liz Hadaway.
About the immersive experience, Hadaway said it fulfills the audience's demand from theatrical events, making the experience different for each viewer. "It is an adventure into the unknown. Each audience member will emerge with a different perspective on the production."
Besides the notion of presenting a new experience, the setting aims to make Macbeth easy for the audience to understand. Allison Williams, the fight director, who also plays Macbeth, said while people associate Shakespeare's work with classic English (which the audience may not understand at times), this production mixes classical text with improvised lines in modern English thus allowing the audience to follow the story easily.
Williams, who was previously involved with six Macbeth productions in various capacities, said Shakespeare's universal themes allow his work to be tweaked in different ways. Putting it in a modern context not only makes the play relatable to audiences, it also brings to light the human desire to have their actions justified.
"When you cannot literally dethrone a king, you think 'how can I get the big boss out of the way to get the promotion?' There are a lot of people in Dubai who are strivers, and Macbeth will hold a mirror to their ambitions. It's about how far you are willing to go and get ahead, and who you will cut down on the way," said Williams.
Having spent the past three months observing men to portray her male character, Williams noted that the story will show how much Macbeth goes back and forth before he decides to kill the king, or in this case, the CEO.
"If we go by stereotypes, women negotiate better. Having women tell the story shows you the struggle Macbeth had to go through before his wife lures him into murder, and it's much clearer when you hear it from a woman."
She added, "We all look for cues from the universe to say we are right, and this is what makes Shakespeare universal." Venetia Tiarks-Clark, who plays Lady Macbeth, said the modern production will get the characters closer to the audience. While Lady Macbeth is portrayed as an evil, audiences will sorry for her. "When you see that she has given everything to create this 'perfect' image of herself, it becomes easy to see that there are many women who have to put this face on the whole time." Clark said the audience should expect to be surprised throughout the show. - firstname.lastname@example.org
Save the date
What: Macbeth: An Immersive theatre experience
Where/When: Abu Dhabi National Theatre on April 14-15; Alserkal Avenue in Dubai on April 21 - 22; The Ajman Cultural Centre on April 28 - 29.
Tickets: Dhs150, available from www.shakespeareunderthestars.ae.