Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Macbeth and Cardassians.

Everyone knows Patrick Stewart is god's gift to acting. His performance on the Star Trek episode "Chain of Command" should prove that to anyone who's seen it. It certainly opened my eyes to the wonders of spectacularly delicious acting as a kid. So it's disappointing that Director Rupert Goold places Patrick Stewart in a largely static Macbeth in it's current run at the BAM.

Goold's take summons the muses of soviet fascist imagery, and jungle camouflaged british actors revolving around Stewart's Macbeth to illuminate his frantic mind. This Macbeth is an AK carrying counterinsurgent in the mold of Mussolini, but terrified of the actual act of treason and murder. It's an interesting take, but its insistence on video art to animate the characters is distracting: largely the actors hit their marks and stick while video projections inject dynamics and tension to the play. Goold has stated that he's taken inspiration from 70s horror flicks, yet he probably hasn't seen much more than their trailers. Every scene, and most apallingly his no wave take on the weyward sister's "Double, Double" speech, is punctuated and fractured like a trailer for the Saw series. This hamfisted approach, in the 2000s no less, is a silly trick to up tension in an overwhelmingly complex introspective work, full of soliloquy and secrecy. It's far past time to throw this cheap cliche out with the baby:

For three hours, Goold's videos play and repeat and it's increasingly frustrating to watch such a misreading of horror. Horror films aren't as slapdash as most think; good ones strive to make the familiar unfamiliar by creating a plausible but off setting. Macbeth does neither. It's set in what looks like a dirty hospital -- you know the aesthetic: dirty tiles, operating tables-- which hardly anyone has ever visited, except in shlocky stupid horror films. The best horror films (Martin, Last House on the Left, Dawn of the Dead) take a familiar setting, the homefront, a mall, a small town, and inject a twist of social commentary to unset the ground, to make a slightly different reality: it's not just flashy lights, blood, and screaming.

(Also, note to the Times: don't send correspondents to galas to get drunk).

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