revew: 1623 – Hover through the Fog
Hover through the Fog/
first posted 5/11/14//
The room is dark, and filled with fog as I shuffle in to find a seat. With the rest of the audience, I sit in wait, as more fog belches from a steel bin centre stage. The effect is only increased by it being October 31st, and Hallowe’en – I have walked here this evening through Derby city centre and past countless ghouls and gallons of (fake) blood. The doors shut, the fog swirls and a fell voice calls from behind us:
Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty!
Much as I would like to quote the whole of that speech, lifted from that of Lady Macbeth, I’ll not. But here comes Hecat, Goddess of Witchcraft, to recruit us to her dread purpose. Amid her arcane recitations, she tells us of Will Shakespeare’s sinful additions to his plays, and summons ‘Sisters’ from the audience, to don long, off-white, hooded robes and circle the cauldron, which continues issuing fog. The rest of the audience she incites to chant lines from Macbeth, before finally summoning the man himself, powerfully played by Nathan Masterson. The wretched bunch then reenact IV. i. of Macbeth, complete with ‘Double double, toil and trouble’, chanted by the audience. The digital animations of Darius Powell are projected on the fog and wall above the cauldron, reproducing some of Shakespeare’s most disturbing images, perhaps most potent that of ‘a bloodied child’.
All great fun, only barely marred by a fire alarm caused by errant fog not doing what it outta, which put a couple of commas in the show, but both actors took it in their stride, and carried the show excellently well, getting right back to business, and never breaking character. We were in good hands.
I am a great fan of what 1623 do in their approach to Shakespeare, and this show is no exception. In the discussion post-performance, Ben Spiller (Hecat, and Artistic Director of 1623) tells us how Shakespeare belongs to everyone and I think one of the best ways of proving this is what they’re doing here: chopping it up, mixing it about and showing to us how captivating it can be. I can’t speak for my fellow audience members, but after this show, I’m raring to see a full-length Shakespeare production. And on Hallowe’en there was hardly a better time for this performance to take place. There are images in Macbeth (and all of Shakespeare) which remain reproduced, retain their power to disturb to this day.
The discussion post-show could have benefited from being a little more structured, but what was imparted was interesting, engaging, and gave brilliant context to the performance we had just seen. In addition, each audience member received a program, containing a wealth of information about Hecat, Macbeth, and witches and witchcraft, which was a very nice touch.
With the low ticket price (three quid – bargain), the intimacy of the setting, the combination of theatre, digital art and participation, and the (unfortunate) technical hiccups, the evening had the sense of a big experiment. And in my opinion, it was a very successful experiment. The combination of theatre, media and discussion worked wonderfully and I would love to see more of this.