The Story in Blades, Epilogue
Thanks to you who read my prior posts, especially the R&J discussion. Today's going to be less organized and more rambly, a few thoughts on the Macbeth I've just choreographed. If you haven't read part II of this series and are hankering for some deep dive nerdy text/fight analysis, it's got what you need.
Fore and firstmost, I love Macbeth. It's one of the names I trot out when I'm asked my favorite Shakespeare play. I've never been in it(Measure for Measure 3, Macbeth 0). When 4615 Theatre's artistic director Jordan Friend asked if I wanted to fix him up some fights, I lunged at the chance in langort.
(that's a german martial arts joke, cause I'm all about making my readers feel left out.)
Art tiptoes between representing reality and embellishing it to express an idea. Visual art has the broad realism-abstraction spectrum. In acting we usually call these qualities 'naturalism' and 'theatricality.' In my lifetime I've watched the young medium of video games grow up enough to develop its own vocabulary for this tension - 'simulation' versus 'arcade.' Too abstract, and you can't connect to a work. Too realistic, and you may as well go experience the thing it represents instead.
My acting style - at least, my attempt at one - is a very grounded, relaxed naturalism that hits punctuation marks of theatricality through moments of intense focus and self awareness. Gods I hope that doesn't read as pompous as it felt to write. Feel free to smack me on the head if it did. Anyway, my fights are similar. I can do pretty, but that's not what people come to me for. They come to me for brutal.
Banquo's murder is a fun exercise in tempering realism. Numbers in combat are paramount. Realistically, assuming equal armament, three or more idiots should beat one expert almost every time. Still, Banquo is extolled early on as a heroic combatant. Even assailed from all sides, he knows his angles and timings well enough to buy his son a few seconds to escape, and even after he's disarmed and stabbed, he kills one murderer with his own weapon. He uses their error of inexperience against them - taking their focus off him because they haven't learned the crucial difference between 'fatally wounded' and 'dead.'
Macbeth's fight with Young Siward is an example of a contest between someone who's trained and someone who's both trained and experienced. Siward knows the forms, the steps and the counters, but he's never felt the nerves and fear of real battle, and he doesn't have the muscle memory to react when the forms and the counters break down. To modify a familiar phrase, no martial art survives first contact with the enemy. Macbeth moves with a calmness and fluidity that someone who's still following the patterns his fighting master drilled into him can't.
Macbeth's own state of mind at the end of the play is also fascinating - He's bolstered by the words of the prophecy that he's untouchable, even as he watches it cave in around him. With the news of his wife's death, he has his 'brief candle' speech - '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, signifying nothing.'
Half of him still believes he can't die, and the other half doesn't care. How does someone like that fight?
Let's talk about the big one - Macbeth/Macduff. Two men who've lost their families and households, both hurtling along paths they no longer control. Macduff is an inexorable spearpoint of revenge. Macbeth is a cracking tower of ambition. Neither is fighting for his own life so much as fulfilling the doom he laid for himself long ago.
If there's one thing I always keep in mind, it's to have a fighter use every resource available to them in a fight. If you have a one-handed weapon, your other hand is another weapon. Are there any objects on stage harder or sharper than a fist? Weapons. Remember the fundamental compromise of combat: Any attack you make will open your defense up somewhere. Macbeth and Macduff's swords clash, and they leave gaps for kidney punches and headbutts:
I'll leave it there, I think. Thanks for reading my rambling. :)