When the director of this month’s production of Macbeth went looking for a place to stage the play, he wanted something fresh and extraordinary.
So, instead of choosing an indoor venue, he chose to have his actors tred on paths that are regularly walked over by parents pushing baby carriages, joggers or pet owners walking their dogs at the Robert L. Cotton Park in Stratford.
“There are all kinds of locations at the site that make it a perfect place to mount the play,” says Terry Pratt during a recent break in rehearsals for the A.C.T. (A Community Theatre) production that opened last night and continues Sept. 7, 8 and 13.
For instance, there’s a natural hollow or cavern in the park that’s wild and overgrown and perfect for the supernatural scenes.
“In Macbeth, as you know, there are witches. At one point they have a cauldron in a cavern in the woods where they’re brewing up this noxious brew as they recite the famous chant, ‘Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble’ . . . . Well, this hollow looks like the kind of place that witches could be (doing that) in,” says Pratt.
Then there’s the waterfront.
“We’re on the shore of the Hillsborough River. In the play, there’s the murder of Lady Macduff, a brutal scene. It occurred to me that she could be drowned as a way of doing that (in the play),” says Pratt.
He has even incorporated the park’s two gazebos into the show.
“The little one makes a perfect location for Lady Macbeth to be in the beginning, before the evil starts, just out in her lovely flower garden.
“The other large gazebo works well as a castle,” says Pratt, adding the play will move the audience from one outside location to another, following the action from field to woods to shore to gazebo.
Actor Richard Haines, who plays Macbeth, is excited about taking the journey. He knows first-hand the challenges of performing in an open-air venue.
“There are all sorts of things that can happen. It can rain. It can storm. So it’s the unpredictability of the whole thing,” says Haines who also appeared in an outdoor production of As You Like it in 2000.
“One of our shows was stormed out, and another (ended) halfway because of illness on stage,” he says.
Still, Haines is ready to play whatever hand nature deals him.
“It would be amazing if there were a storm during the play,” he says.
In fact, it would be quite appropriate.
“Macbeth says, ‘Though you untie the winds and
let them fight against
the churches,’” says Haines, “well fine, let them. It’s OK with me.”
Producer Bunty Albert is fine with singing the show’s praises.
“This production is unlike any (other) Macbeth that you’ve ever seen. Even if you’ve seen it outdoors before, this one has been shortened with a few extraneous characters taken out . . . . The audience will even be asked to participate in two or three scenes,” she says.
In between the segments, three apprentice witches will keep audience members moving, says Pratt.
“They’re not Shakespeare characters but they will be in costume . . . . They will show their witchieness when they say, ‘Move along there. Keep up witha’ the rest’ or ‘stand back, we need a gap for the audience to get through.’ ”
That’s because the play needs the audience to be in different kinds of configurations, depending on the nature of the scene.
“They’ll be shepherding, but hopefully they’ll raise a smile from the audience,” says Pratt, adding the main reason he wanted to use an outdoor setting was to give visitors attending the 2012 Stratfords of the Worlds Reunion next week a fresh approach on a classic show. The event takes place Sept. 13-19.
“Other Stratfords in England, Connecticut and Ontario all have big, wonderful professional theatres and companies. Coming here, they’re expecting some Shakespeare. So what could we do?
“By giving them an experience that they wouldn’t get anywhere else — a chance to be outside in a beautiful park.”
AT A GLANCE
If you are going
When: Sept. 7, 8 and 13 for the public. Special performances take place Sept. 14-15 for participants in the Stratfords of the World Reunion.
Where: Robert L. Cotton Park, Stratford
Story: Written in the early 1600s by William Shakespeare, Macbeth is a play of contradiction and ambition. Driven to becoming King, Macbeth will kill all and any that get in his way. In his journey, he puts his faith in the words and prophesies of three witches.
Worth quoting: “Lady Macbeth is a perfect women’s role. She’s a strong, powerful woman and she makes decisions that effect people in the play.” - lead Catherine MacDonald:
Come prepared: All performances begin at 6 p.m. Audience members are reminded to dress for walking and the outdoors. Because of decreasing daylight, anyone wishing to bring along a flashlight may do so.
For more information, go to http://macbethpei2012.wordpress.com/tag/shakespeare.