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Shakespeare Demystified: Macbeth the Minimal
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Shakespeare Demystified: Macbeth the Minimal

by Joyah RiversMay 6, 2017

Shakespeare Demystified’s run on Macbeth this year opened late April in Penang and continued their run in KL starting May 2nd. As usual, the production aims for minimalism on their props and set, playing with audience’s imagination and interpretation.

Let’s not lie to ourselves – Macbeth is one bloody long and boring play. Honestly the only thing enticing about it are the prophecies, for me at least. The slow pacing that started the play could be a cause, and may also be due to a loss of energy from an earlier show they did the same afternoon. Despite the efforts in filling up the monotonous scenes with mild jokes and comedic narrations, I can’t help but find myself looking forward to only the good parts of the play.

And here they are:

The Minimalism

Kudos to director Lim Kien Lee for creatively working a minimalist concept for this play. Actors were all dressed in black, with army boots to picture the war mode of the play. Brilliant use of various colored clothes and scarfs to represent different characters – look out for the particularly appealing 3rd prophecy scene. The Weird Sisters told their prophecies behind a red cloth, sticking their face close to it – creating an outline of their figure. Interestingly similar to wayang kulit/shadow art, and a great addition to the play.

The set was the bare black box theatre itself with occasional usage of chairs in the banquet scenes. A little movement choreography was performed in both scenes, setting up a dramatic mood towards them. What was different this time is that the actors are now waiting on stage itself, in clear view of the audience, rather than their usual off stage waiting point. This does not work for me (I’m sure, for the actors too, as they have to be alert throughout the entire play), as it is distracting at times and disturbed the minimalist visual I am supposed to see.

Props, Kien Lee explained, were only there for imaginary items – the dagger, the ghost, the prophecies, – while real items like the letter, food, and swords were all mimed. This works for most scenes, but did not for some such as Lady Macbeth’s monologue. This is because the actress (Anne James) had to switch between narrating and playing the character, while constantly miming the letter. The gun fight, between the two assasins and Banquo was amusing to me, despite having no guns. The actors creatively expressed themselves in this scene, making every second believable and exciting.

Tung Jit Yang in Banquo’s murder scene.

The Acting

Excellent, excellent, excellent. All actors are “Shakespeare” actors – strong body works and clean, clear, words projection.

Anne James, was strong physically and emotionally on stage. You feel her love, her desires, her ambitions, through her eyes, her gestures, her precision in every way. Likewise for Tika Mu’tamir, whose sturdy physique leave a strong impact when paired with her honest emotions and precise reactions.

Anne James as Lady Macbeth

Tika Mu’tamir playing various roles.

As for Macbeth, played by Lim Soon Heng, he did not perform as well as he usually does. In spite of Soon Heng’s seasoned status in the scene – he could be seen losing focus in between scene changes, disrupting Macbeth’s story arc. David H Lim tries hard with his pronunciation, creating a rather weird accent. NYU graduate Tung Jit Yang has a few stage habits he can do without, such as hunching and swaying on his feet.

Lim Soon Heng as Macbeth

The Music

Kien Lee also plays the background music of the play, live, and solo! Like their previous production of Merchant of Venice, a song was also sang live by the cast, placed well during a transition.

The production runs until this Sunday at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. Bookings for schools’ morning shows are available upon request. Call to enquire.

Rating: 3.25/5

All photos taken from .

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Joyah Rivers
Theatre Police, when you need someone to just tell it to your face.

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