Full of Sound and Fury
20/02/2006 - 04/03/2006
By Roman de Fruscan
Directed by Neale S McGrath
Britain’s acclaimed Dreamscape Theatre presents a tale of treachery, ambition, death … and actors’ egos! Life imitates art as a production of Macbeth misfires. Theatre laid bare …
Two actors in search of a playwright
Review by John Smythe 30th Mar 2006
If theatre is about truth then this play delivers the goods at least twice. The title is from Macbeth’s ‘To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow" speech, which ends:
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
(Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Act 5 scene 5)
A two-hander, Full of Sound and Fury indeed takes an hour, its main perpetrator is characterised as an egotistical idiot, there is much strutting and fretting that often escalates into sound and fury, and in the end it signifies nothing. Or nothing coherent, anyway.
The second ‘truth’ is uttered more than once, when he says what was supposed to be their performance of Macbeth has degenerated into "post modernistic sub-Brechtian crap". It has.
Let me hasten to add that both the actors are extremely competent. Marcus Fernando plays Louis Brush (a.k.a. Roman de Fruscan, the credited writer) who plays Macbeth. Tina Hoffman plays Olga Novak who plays Lady Macbeth. Both negotiate the twists and turns of their characters’ changing states with consummate skill.
It’s the play that doesn’t work and – given it is a brand new one on a try-out tour from Britain, and they overtly invite any opinions (good or bad) the audience might have about the show – let me count the reasons why.
Credibility. We are asked to willingly suspend our disbelief of the proposition that an actual performance of Macbeth is subverted by a couple of bickering performers (a rather tired device) while the remaining cast waits patiently in the wings. If it was set up as a special tech rehearsal, perhaps, involving just the two leads, it might work better.
Verbosity. Everything is over-explained in the dialogue. This renders the audience passive. What are the terms of engagement? There is nothing for the audience to wonder about, worry about, seek answers to or conjure with. All we get to do is watch a lot of acting of even more writing.
Yes I know the work’s purpose turns out to be to deconstruct, demystify and play about with the component parts theatre craft, even unto exploring the big existential conflicts: reality v fantasy, identity v nonentity, performer v audience, destiny v self-will, life v death … There may well be ingenious thematic links between the excerpts from Macbeth and the more immediate drama. But all that is a long time coming and it is simply not delivered in a way that inspires more than arms-length, intellectual and academic appreciation.
Where is the chance to empathise, to care, to be provoked into laugher? (Don’t tell me that’s Brechtian. I defy anyone not to engage in ‘what would I do?’ empathy with Grusha, Azdak, Mother Courage, Galileo et al). It’s one thing to involve the audience with actual challenges to bare themselves on stage, and quite another to connect with the essence of their humanity through the magic of make believe.
The obvious role-models for what this show wants – needs – to be are Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. As it stands it looks, sounds and feels like a play that is trying to think itself out in performance. Given the cast and crew biographies credit no-one with writing experience, my guess is that Full of Sound and Fury exemplifies premature performance syndrome, brought on by paying too little attention to the conception and gestation phases.
Wanted: a playwright.
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