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That Polish MacBeth and The Familiar Culture intersecting with Innovation

April 16, 2020

I just want to stress again that I'm not reviewing anything. I'm only writing about things because I want to think about them and work out how they're useful to me as an Artist and by extension how they're useful to anyone else.

 

What I really want to talk about is the culture of the bodies and what those bodies were doing on stage in MacBeth. The first thing to say, but not my main point, is that it was really striking to me that the bodies of the men on stage were different than the majority of bodies of men I see in England. I define these bodies and the way they behave as traditionally masculine; I am fully aware of the problematic nature of traditional masculinity and it's intersectionality with toxic masculinty and I am not saying we need more toxically-masculine-alpha-overbaring-sexuallypredatoring-knobheads. Traditional masculinity isn't something that men should aspire to be; it is an out dated concept of man that has caused depression, anxiety and suicide in men because they think they have to be it; I am fully aware of the gravitas of what I'm writing about here. Now that's out of the way... I define traditional masculinity as taking up space, loud, aggressive, funny, probably could scrap anyone, mid-low levels of grooming, minimum body weight issues... Probably a bit bald and doesn't care... definetly dominating a room. This is not a helpful image for a young man to try and be BUT these men exist. Living in Liverpool I encounter them daily. And I didn't realise until I saw this production that's full of them how absent they are in British Theatre on the stages. I suspect it's probably for a number of reasons; post #metoo I imagine we affiliate those sorts of men with the abusers of the past (and present), there is also a general shift away from men in our conversations, the male directors don't want to work with them because they might lose the room, the women because of the above... I dunno. I'm guessing but still those bodies are missing and I think it's important because it's the starting place for what I thought was most striking about this piece; this culture and it's intersectionality with innovation in THIS piece.

 

If we think of the starting place of a way in to thinking about this culture as these mens bodies and the way they operate in a space. Taking it up; filling it with choatic aggressive energy that's trying to have fun all the time despite what's going on in the story and we put it alongside these witches who were party party party and these women who are these felt primal powerful bastards.. The space begins to feel like a party and the piece is elevated into the operatic. Now obviously this isn't appropiate for all pieces but thinking about the body as a starting place for culture is just something so alien to me because, obvisouly, I'm a writer but I think it's just so fucking obvious now I've seen this piece. The place becomes a party but one, like those scatty house parties you find yourself at at 4am, that is under charged with sex and danger... It sounds like a fucking nightmare but it's the first time I've felt a world that I live in on stage since Violence and Son... Which conicdentally had a proper traditionally masculine man in it.

 

I'm not saying all theatre should be this I'm just thinking about my dissonance with theatre and how watching this brought me closer to it. We need to think about how to use this "culture" for our individual prospects.

 

If we want to make theatre popular for more people, for more types of people, to reach a broader audience don't we have to go some way to taking the world of the people we're trying to reach onto the stage? Isn't that why Misty and Fleabag are so succesful? Isn't that why Emilia worked? Granted this becomes really probelmatic when you're the national theatre or the royal court and your audience is so vast but... If we're in Liverpool, or Hull, or Newcastle or somewhere with a really clear cultural idenity don't we start here with these bodies and this culture?

 

Now this is where it gets interesting because the culture it's self isn't enough. In fact it might even go on to patronising or condescending or parochial if you try and "replicate a places a culture". I think the process has to be firstly to go back to the central question in what ever your doing and really get to the bottom of the central questions relationship with place and think about the bodies and then think about the culture in relation to where the play is happening. In MacBeth this is a power struggle play taking place in Poland after everything that happened to it; the extension of that question is, in Polands recent history, over whelmingly masculine and bawdy (according to my Polish friend). So the culture, and the bodies, come from the question in sync with a truthful element of the world the play is happening in (and this can be an element of society that is ill ad odds with the place it's in)... It feels like this MacBeth and it's commenting on power in Poland post everything it's been through... These are the men that ran the country; this is the culture of that power struggle within Poland. The great Opera of the Polish establishment. I reckon (guessing) that's how they got there.

 

And THEN we can think about the next amazing thing that this Polish MacBeth offered... TO take it seriously.

 

I'm really aware that a culture isn't enough; it's simply the world that the piece exists in BUT if the culture is real and it's felt and it's true of a communty then we should automatically be invested in it. There are no accusations to be made of pretenion because we, as a community, recognise the bodies in the space and we feel the vibe in the space to be true. So the next level of taking it seriously is to be RIGOURESS with theatricalilty. This production of MacBeth found a visual language that elevates this hyper masculine/ powerful femininity world into, as I said the other day, this state of pychosis without being pyscotic. This lifts this felt world into an intellectual and theatrical one. One that is uniquely theatre; a different way of thinking.

 

The sum total of this is that we feel our way into the culture of the world and it eliminates any argument of pretention because it's true and felt. Once we're into the culture of it we see a drama that disects ourselves and our society. We feel our way through it through the theatricality and it's language. We are intellectually excercised because of the theatricality and it's language. We have a Good Night Out Working At The Apex of Familiarity and Innovation.

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