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RSC's Macbeth


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#21 Alexandra

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 10:46 AM

Of course it isn't realistic! I'm not suggesting that it is. Theatre isn't about realism and being literal - that's my point. It's all about sitting in a darkened room, watching people being what they're not, engaging your imagination, suspending your grip on reality, and going with the flow. Personally I find accents are unimportant (so long as intelligible) and skin colour is entirely irrelevant, whether all in the same family or not (unless, perhaps, the play is actually about race). Insofar as it's a hurdle for some people, I believe it's only so because it's still relatively uncommon.

As for realism, you don't seriously think someone speaking Macbeth in a modern Scottish accent bears significant resemblance to how a medieval Scottish king would have sounded! Even if he did it in Shakepearean English as pronounced in Shakespeare's time, you'd struggle to understand it (the Globe has experimented with this).

#22 Haz

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 11:56 AM

QUOTE(Alexandra @ Jun 12 2007, 11:46 AM) View Post
It's all about sitting in a darkened room, watching people being what they're not, engaging your imagination, suspending your grip on reality, and going with the flow.


If it's all about our imagination, why do they bother with sets/costumes etc etc. If it was all about imagination, the actors could sit on chairs all in a row, stand up to say their lines, wearing what they'd come in off the street in and by your logic, we should be able to get as much from that as a full scale production.

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#23 Alexandra

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:23 PM

QUOTE(Haz @ Jun 12 2007, 12:56 PM) View Post
If it's all about our imagination, why do they bother with sets/costumes etc etc. If it was all about imagination, the actors could sit on chairs all in a row, stand up to say their lines, wearing what they'd come in off the street in and by your logic, we should be able to get as much from that as a full scale production.


Yes, indeed they could, and in some plays they do. But it isn't compulsory that they should! Variety is key, obviously. What I'm objecting to is a prescriptive literal approach - the idea that the audience will have a problem unless Macbeth is done with Scottish accents, or unless actors playing blood relatives are ethnically identical and have the same accents, etc.

#24 Jan Brock

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:31 PM

QUOTE(Alexandra @ Jun 12 2007, 01:23 PM) View Post
Yes, indeed they could, and in some plays they do. But it isn't compulsory that they should! Variety is key, obviously. What I'm objecting to is a prescriptive literal approach - the idea that the audience will have a problem unless Macbeth is done with Scottish accents, or unless actors playing blood relatives are ethnically identical and have the same accents, etc.


I too have struggled to think of seeing a Scottish Macbeth out of the 10+ I have seen - Michael Pennington wore a kilt but did not convince as a Jock. Has Brian Cox ever played it ? He should.

#25 armadillo

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 01:42 PM

I suspect we'll have to wait until David Tennant returns to the stage for a proper Scottish Macbeth. Or maybe John Barrowman could do a musical version.

#26 Lynette

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 10:35 PM

I 'did' Macbeth at school in Birmingham. We did it in posh; we did all the parts in posh as we did all the parts in all the plays we ever did. It has never occured to me that you need the actor playing Macbeth to have any accent other than his own which these days is let's face it, usually RP, albeit a bit upbeat these days.

If you know  a bit about aristocracies in any country you probably know that that they all spoke in posh [ or French , if you were Russian] and only the peasants had the 'accent' we now associate with whatever part of our isles we are referring to. Shakespeare was of course aware of accent as in the Henry plays and the Welsh soldier and the others who are clearly meant to be of a lower social status than the main characters  so I think he had no intention of making Macbeth sound anything like a yokel.

As for having a mixed race cast and a mixed race 'family', let's have the best actors whatever they look like - as Olivier once said, 'You can ACT, can't you?' Sarah Bernhardt played Hamlet when she was  a middle aged woman with a wooden leg. Marvellous.

#27 thecrucible

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 08:42 AM

My concern with this discussion about accents is that it veers dangerously close to "there is a proper voice in which to speak Shakespeare" argument. If there is a problem with an Irish accented Macbeth (his acting ability set aside for the moment) simply because the play and the production don't use an Irish setting, doesn't that by implication extend to the fact that Shakespeare can't be played in other countries. Elizabethan period costume Shakespeare in America with American accents - wouldn't be possible because America wasn't fully colonised by the west at that point so you couldn't get the consistency which some people in this thread seem to be arguing for. I know that's a complicated example but you see what I mean.
It's rare to have absolute consistency in Shakespeare. Yes, the Russian design in Lear may have been consistent but by the argument being presented, they should all have had Russian accents.
As a director myself, the only thing I require from an actor is that their vocal quality and acting ability are suited to the role - if that ability and quality come wrapped up in broad Scots or perfect RP, it doesn't make a difference - accent doesn't indicate if someone can capture the soul of a character.
I understand what people are saying about bad productions and an odd mix of accents (particularly amongtst family members) can be just another thing to add to your irritation but the principle can't be that all accents should be standardised within a single production. That leads us back to the John Gielgud school of RP beautiful voices and anyone who has seen the best of the work by Northern Broadsides, Propellor and a million productions in Scotland and Ireland know that is not a style which is required anymore. Just give us good acting in any accent - the actor's own or one which suits the character (and I mean the character, not their function - ie. king of Scotland who bears no resemblance to the historical figure bearing his name does not need to be Scottish)

#28 Alexandra

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 10:33 AM

Thank god - I was beginning to think I was alone.

#29 Trev

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 10:46 AM

I would like to stress that I have no problem with any accent for Shakespeare and can endorse the wonderfulness of some of Northern Broadsides productions and would stress that my reluctance to accept varying accents in family groups does not mean that I like all my Shakespeare spoken by Oxbridge graduates.

#30 Jan Brock

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 02:04 PM

QUOTE(Trev @ Jun 13 2007, 11:46 AM) View Post
I would like to stress that I have no problem with any accent for Shakespeare and can endorse the wonderfulness of some of Northern Broadsides productions and would stress that my reluctance to accept varying accents in family groups does not mean that I like all my Shakespeare spoken by Oxbridge graduates.


I like all my Shakespeares directed by Oxbridge graduates though.




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