Lady Macbeth: Unsex Me Here
Seen at Tron, Glasgow;
touring until November 19
Reviewed by Mark Brown
I have long thought that the words and deeds of Lady Macbeth, rather than the witches’ prophecy, are central to the events of Shakespeare’s “Scottish play”. In their new dance-theatre piece Lady Macbeth: Unsex Me Here, Glasgow-based groups Company Chordelia and Solar Bear seem to share that sense of the female protagonist’s special position in the play.
Director Kally Lloyd Jones explores the character through choreographies for three male dancers. In doing so, she goes further than a theatre director might in casting a male actor as Lady M.
The three dancers are, for the most part, three-in-one (an Unholy Trinity, if you will). They do not represent an attempt by Lady M to merely transform herself into an image of unfeeling, violent machismo. Rather, their masculinity allows them to approach the moral ambiguities of her stated desire to be “unsexed” from a series of fascinating angles.
Lady M has, famously, been a mother and lost the child (“I have given suck, and know. How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me”). Here, the dancers nurse little bundles that appear to be babies. Their rocking motion becomes a motif, repetitive and frenzied, akin, in the queen’s moments of greatest mental distress, to her constant cleaning of her hands.
We hear Lady M’s loaded assertion that, when he dared kill the king, Macbeth was, “so much more the man”; a powerful reminder of the role of her sexuality in inciting the regicide.
The visual aesthetic of the piece – dark, simple with the dancers emerging from three little alcoves in which they have been preparing at dressing tables – is exquisite. The music, by the likes of Ravel, Verdi and Mozart is beautifully attuned to the piece’s journey into one of Shakespeare’s most complex female characters.
For tour dates, visit: chordelia.co.uk
This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on November 6, 2016
© Mark Brown