How the 'Scottish play' became MacRaj

Local theatre company gives Shakespeare an Indian twist


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It is a famously difficult drama to stage and so afraid are actors of even uttering its' name that they prefer to call it the 'Scottish play.' Shakespeare's Macbeth has challenged players and directors for generations. But now Chiswick based Butterfly Theatre Company who specialise in  "site responsive" productions in caves, castles, and cathedrals across Britain and Europe, are re-imagining the tragedy as a story set in the British Raj.

Artistic Director, Aileen Gonsalves, a Chiswick local, pioneered lunchtime theatre at the St James Theatre in Victoria in 2013 and is behind the project along with Chiswick musician/composer Jonnie Harrison.

How Macbeth Went To India

Aileen says its clear that there’s a hunger for more than lunch among office workers.

"The ingredients of 45 minutes, plus a Shakespeare, Wilde, Neil Simon or other classic writer, mixed with our company's core belief of making every moment alive - with ”edge of your seat" acting - all comes together making audiences escape into another world during their lunch hour. Watching a story unfold, while eating their lunch, they return to work inspired, reinvigorated and having had their hearts opened up a little."

Set in India during the Raj, the current production is Shakespeare's Macbeth - running for an limited run April 13-17 at 1pm each weekday. In the Butterfly Theatre version Macbeth, a British officer, marries an Indian princess. Exploring the supernatural forces and rituals among the Goddesses of India, the play looks at the power struggles between the women and the men of the Raj, as well as the servants and the queens. It questions what is real strength. The theatre will be filled with an explosion of colour and sensations.

Local theatre company pioneers lunchtime Shakespeare

Chiswick local, Jonnie Harrison, Butterfly’s composer, who has spent time in India, has brought his experiences to the soundscape of this production. Jonnie has created sounds and effects which bring not only the traditional idea of India to this production, but also the broken elements underneath the facade, the supernatural world of ghosts and spells, as well as the inner world of Macbeth.

But how did he manage to merge the Shakesperian theme with the Indian concept?

Jonnie says that he discussed the ideas behind the production, including the circularity of Macbeth's thinking, the pressure cooker of events building, and the masculine and feminine energies jostling for space, and used a variety of instruments to create a multi layered sound world. The recurring motifs and themes suggest the presence of the witches, while also externalising the inner struggles of Macbeth and his wife. Utilising Tabla, bells, and meditation bowls with live singing, he created an unusual sound story.

Butterfly are attached to the MA in Acting course at ArtsEd in Chiswick, and the support of the school allows the company to develop in its unique way. They are hoping to come to Chiswick House and Gardens in the near future.

Macbeth runs for a limited run April 13-17 at 1pm at the St James Studio in Victoria, Palace Street. Bring your lunch. Book early as tickets are selling fast.


March 25, 2015

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