Death to the Tyrant!
Act II is worked through! We just may have a play on our hands. A month into the rehearsal process and there is still a way to go in creating an experience for the audience (hopefully the experience of dirty, sexy fun).
The blocking and working of Act II had its own challenges in contrast to those of Act I. While Act I must work to grab the audience's attention and pull them into this slick, down-and-dirty world we are creating, it must also set up the characters in a thoughtful and nuanced way so that the unraveling that occurs in Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and Macduff has a strong emotional impact. The rhythm of the first half of them play is somewhat (and deliberately) irregular. The brutal street brawl, passionate exchanges between the Macbeths should feel quick, almost frantic. Most of Act I, however, allows the audience to take pause and let the story develop and Macbeth to reveal his calculating, methodical killer-instinct.
Act II, on the other hand, starts with the banquet scene and should become increasingly manic until the play's climax. The challenge is, of course, building up this energy so that the final battle between Macbeth and Macduff is raw and memorable without losing the poignancy of Macbeth's existential crisis and Lady Macbeth's nightmarish levels of regret and guilt.
Act II is also interesting to stage in the space because of the three scenes that require the entire cast. The banquet and the apparition scenes both occur in Act II and this requires a level of detail in keeping the other characters engaged with the action without things becoming distracting from the main dialogue exchanges. The lack in lighting equipment to direct the audience's focus in the Quad means developing ways to tell the story from every vantage point. While this should be true of any play in any space, its vitally important in the Quad where there are few places outside the MU that actors can be "off stage."
As always, in working through the scenes some wonderful discoveries were made that further contrast first and second parts of the play. While in the beginning, Macbeth is extremely controlled and rational, he becomes emotionally erratic, manic, and unpredictable. Part of this, we found yesterday, is played out with and inversion of the power dynamic between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. One or the other always assumes the dominant role in their relationship. It is written to be extremely balanced, until he starts to slip away. It is interesting that this couple, so loving and supportive of each other, is capable of such "direst cruelty." Their love story is a fascinating study because they really fall apart when they no longer have their "dearest partner of greatness."
The fight scenes were another element that really came to life this week. Putting the finishing details on the multiple (and horrifying) displays of violence further enhance the raw savagery of Macbeth's world. Now . . . if only I can devise some other challenges to fling in the actors' paths . . . hmmm.