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Let’s Play: Macbeth (7 – 10 players)

Flickering tapers anyone? A play-reading of Macbeth should end with candles guttering out and its closing lines spoken ‘off’, where light can still be seen. The ‘butcher’ and ‘his fiend-like queen’ may be dead but what about those witches?
It is a close, terrifying play. A small chalk circle was all that contained the fatal action of the acclaimed RSC production of 1976 (dir. Trevor Nunn) with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench in the title roles.

Our selected readings are inescapably taut and tight, with 1 or 2 voices doing most of the ‘work.’
In the sidebar to the right you will find castings for 5 scenes:

  • A1S5 The letter: ‘Hail, king that shalt be!’ (2 players).
  • A2S2 ‘Macbeth does murder sleep’ (2 players).
  • A3S4 The Ghost of Banquo appears. (4 players)
  • A4S1 ‘By the pricking of my thumbs,’ (7 players)
  • A5S5 ‘I have supp’d full with horrors,’ (2 players)

Macbeth was probably performed for the first time in 1606 or 1607. King James (6th of Scotland and 1st of England) came to the English throne in 1603, survived the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, and must have been very interested in a play in which a king is murdered by a trusted nobleman, who is diabolically possessed by witchcraft, a devilish wife, and his own burning ambition.

Macbeth is also, of course, the Scottish play. Scots need not be spoken, although this is your opportunity to try and ignore what happened to Orson Welles! After its original release in 1948, Republic Pictures had Welles cut two reels from his film of Macbeth and ordered him to have much of the soundtrack re-recorded with the actors speaking in their natural voices, and not the approximation of Scottish accents that Welles initially requested. The new version was released by Republic in 1950.

Players-Shakespeare provides castings of the whole play for 7 to 10 players, and the original Jacobean casting of the play for 28 players. The castings for 8 and 10 players are performable, with some constraints outlined below, as is, of course the orginial casting.   Links are provided on the sidebar to the right, below the selected scenes, for castings of the play for 8, 9. and 10 players .  There is also a link to a page showing the original casting for 28 players.

We define a casting as ‘performable’, if no player appears in any scene as more than one character.  There may need to be some pretty swift costume changes between scenes. Sometimes a player may be onstage in the same scene, but at different times, and with enough of a gop for the player to go off stage, change costumes, and come back on stage. Costumes need to be easy to change.

Performable castings are age, gender, and colour-blind. Of course this need not apply to the ‘Original’ casting.

In Macbeth, the following players are onstage in a particular scene more than once, in a performable casting:

  • Casting for 8:
    Player 5, in A1S3, plays First Witch, and then, later comes on as Ross.
    Player 8, in A4S1, plays Third Witch, and then later comes on as Lenox.
  • Casting for 10:
    Player 5, in A4S1, plays 2nd Apparition, and then later comes on as Lenox.

These are the only identified occasions when players in the performable castings for 8 and 10 players, are onstage in the same scene in different roles.

Let’s Play!

Alan Brown,

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