Macbeth in Doha

The Doha Players bring Shakespeare's 'Scottish play' to Qatar Discuss this article

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Call it the “unlucky” or “Scottish” play, anything but Macbeth will do. Jane Goulding talks to director Mione van der Merwe about the Doha Players’ upcoming production.

Producers and actors have died during productions. So why, when there are scores of plays written by Shakespeare to choose from, would you pick the “unlucky” one to direct?

Director of the production, Mione van der Merwe, says: ‘When it comes to directing plays, Macbeth has always been high on my bucket list. The dark and tragic content, combined with the supernatural element, allows for so many powerful moments theatrically.’

The Play
Set in Medieval Scotland, King Duncan’s generals Macbeth and Banquo are on their way home after quelling a rebellion when they encounter three witches on a bleak moorland. The trio have a prophecy that, although Macbeth will become king, Banquo’s heirs shall rule. The witches then disappear before any more can be said. Murder and mayhem then ensue. If you want to know more, you’ll have to go and watch it.

Macbeth ideal for the stage
Van der Merwe sees it as a challenge for people to forget it as a secondary school read: ‘It is one of those plays that desperately wants to be lifted off the pages and thrown onto the stage. And yet, sadly, so many people only encounter it as a long, confusing high-school reading. This is the perfect play to show Qatar’s residents how powerful and exhilarating Shakespeare can be.’

The curse of Macbeth appears to happen when anyone inside the theatre mentions its name.

Van der Merwe is unconcerned with this: ‘It’s part of the appeal,’ she explains. ‘The misfortune that seems to surround this play only adds to its powerful atmosphere. The speculation and hushed voices that follow any mishaps during the run of the show create an energy that carries on long after the production is over. There are so many things in the world that can’t be answered or explained, so why not embrace those ambiguities.’
For the play, Van der Merwe is keeping the original language and setting. ‘The language is one of the main things that make Shakespeare’s plays so great. Embedded in the text, the actor will find a plethora of directions about the character’s emotions, state of mind, internal rhythm, pacing and personality. It’s like a secret just waiting to be discovered. Once the actor deciphers it, the character comes to life as vividly as the person standing right next to you.’

With a cast of up to 40 people, aged six to 70, van der Merwe will need all her skills as a director for Macbeth. But having spent 15 years involved in the theatre – she put on the hugely successful Les Miserables which made its Doha debut last year – she shouldn’t have any problems.
‘I proposed the idea in September and the board’s vote was unanimously in favour. We know we have the talent, skills and dedication to pull it off,’ she says.

So if regicide, scheming wives and battles are your thing, Macbeth will make for enthralling viewing. Proper Jacobean tragedy at its very best.

Curse of Macbeth
Tradition traces a long line of disasters, all the way back to its premiere...
• On opening night, August 7 1606, the boy actor playing Lady Macbeth died on stage.
• In 1934, four different actors played Macbeth in one week after each predecessor became sick.
• Macbeth was postponed for three days in 1937, after a change of directors and the death of producer Lilian Baylis.
• In 1954, a portrait of Baylis mysteriously crashed down on to the theatre’s floor on opening night.

Diary dates
The performances will take place on March 12, 13, 14, 17 and 19 at Black Box Theatre in Education City. Black Box Theatre, Student Centre, Hamad bin Khalifa University, Education City. For ticketing advice and more information, visit www.thedohaplayers.com and for general enquiries ring (4447 4911).

By Time Out Doha staff
Time Out Doha,

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