William Shakespeare is one of England’s greatest pride and was known as the ‘Bard of Avon’ (Poet of Stratford-uponAvon, England). Of the many plays, he wrote, ‘Macbeth’ was one of them. The play is famous for its grotesque scenes. The main character, King Macbeth who, with his wife’s encouragement, murdered the former King to obtain kingship.
Throughout his reign, Macbeth had been an ambitious but paranoid king as he ruled the country with a murderous attitude. Many innocent lives were killed as Macbeth thought they were plotting against him, until one day he was murdered by those who sought revenge.
The play ends with both husband and wife dead, alongside the skeletons of their evil deeds. In the theatre world, the euphemism ‘The Scottish Play’ was used to refer to the play instead of ‘Macbeth’. This was because, for the play’s gruesome nature, no one shall utter the word ‘Macbeth’ inside the theatre grounds for fear of a curse relating to it. Henceforth, theatres producing the play would instead use ‘Scottish King’ to refer to the character of ‘Macbeth’.
However, if an actor says the name within the grounds, a ritual will be performed to remove the curse. The first time the curse came to legend was during the time Shakespeare himself produced the play. The actor who played Lady Macbeth died during the first production, and Shakespeare himself had to assume the role.
Nonetheless, there is no proof of this legend. While ‘Macbeth’ was such an overwhelming drama play, the curse became a boundary to many but one — Lim Kien Lee, a Malaysian director for the ‘Macbeth’ play under Kuala Lumpur Shakespeare Players (KLSP) theatre company.
Bringing the play to parts of Malaysia, when asked if he was not afraid of the ‘Macbeth’ curse, he answered, “Is it cursed? Only one way to find out!” Kien Lee believes that the supposed curse could also be an unfortunate coincidence.
“Many failing theatre companies would stage Macbeth, banking on its action-packed scenes, as desperate attempts to save their companies — but to no avail,” he said, explaining stories of companies going bankrupt after producing the play. He also added that since the play involved swords, it could cause accidents.
“On top of that, Macbeth is also technically challenging for many actors, owing to the great difference in the character’s traits within the play itself.” ‘Macbeth’ being Kien Lee’s favourite play, he said that those watching the play for the first time should, “Very importantly — do not study the play before you come!” Instead, he encourages audiences to come without knowing what they would expect and to just enjoy the performance.
“When the curtain comes down, you will have understood, enjoyed, and appreciated the play’s power and Shakespeare’s imagination. This production has been staged over 50 times, and has been well received by audiences young and old!” Under the KLSP, they first premiered this play in 2017, and to date still tours, showing the play’s enduring appeal.
The next tour date for this play would be on August 15 at the Chemsain Auditorium, Kuching under its title ‘Shakespeare Demystified — Macbeth’. The play is suitable for 13-year-olds and above. Meanwhile, the younger age group of six and above gets to watch ‘Storytelling Shakespeare — Romeo & Juliet’ by KLSP on August 17 at the Old Courthouse, Kuching. For ticket price and enquiries, do contact 019-8881948 (Sze-Lyn) or 012-8876889 (Laura).
But why does KLSP focus mainly on Shakespeare’s plays though? According to Kien Lee, the plays by Shakespeare holds evergreen values and issues that continued to remain relevant. “From a dramatic perspective, Shakespeare teaches not only human values, but also storytelling skills and characterisation. From a language perspective, Shakespeare’s works offer great models of good writing — great wordplay and fresh imagery.”
Established in 2011, KLSP aims to contribute to the theatre development locally and to provide free training sessions to actors dedicated to honing their skills.