Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Rocks Will Cry Out

When I was a child, my brother had a copy of the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar (the original Broadway show, not the movie). I heard it frequently, committed many of the songs to heart and – like other songs I learned as a child and teen – I still know them. Some of those words came to mind when I saw the Limbo Circus Theatre production of Macbeth this week.

The context is Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem, when the crowd of disciples began to praise God loudly and boisterously, prompting some Pharisees to suggest that Jesus tell them to hush up. The Bible version of his response is in Luke 19 but I like the one set to music:

Why waste your breath moaning at the crowd?
Nothing can be done to stop the shouting
If every tongue were still, the noise would still continue
The rocks and stones themselves would start to sing.

What on earth does such a story have to do with a production of Macbeth, arguably one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedies, you justly ask? No one shouts or sings “Hosanna!” and there’s not a whole lot of praising going on.

It’s not the play but the production which brought the words to mind.

Limbo Circus Theatre is a company formed by Studio 58 students who created this show with other students and recent grads from several theatre schools in the city (including Katherine Gauthier from Trinity Western University). The energy and passion is palpable, thickening the very air and enveloping everyone in the room. These are actors whose talent is undampened by cynicism and undaunted by a lack of resources.

The play takes place in a tiny hole-in-the-wall called Little Mountain Studios. Formerly a garage and now mostly an art studio, this is a space only ingenuity can transform into a theatre. For the production, audience is seated alley style, crammed together on folding chairs, filling each possible crevasse and corner. The set is primarily a warehouse-sized wooden door, which may or may not be part of the space itself, and a small platform at one end of the alley.

Overall, the production is strong, with live piano accompaniment, impressive post-modern costuming, and some excellent performances. The pacing is tight, the emotional commitment sincere. Even the cross-dressing (so many more women onstage now than in Shakespeare’s day!) succeeds by not over-striving or over-justifying.

It was towards the end of the show that the words from Scripture/Tim Rice came to mind. If you really love theatre as these young thespians clearly do, nothing can silence you. (I’m not sure how blasphemous it is to compare a love for theatre with a love for Jesus but this whole blog is based on that concept so I’ll risk it.)

Since I saw this show, the theatre community has been hit with another round of funding cuts from the B.C. government. Battered and angry, many individuals and companies are holding a rally tomorrow to protest in hopes of reversing the decision, particularly in cases where promises were broken.

The timing is either ironic or encouraging. On the one hand, those who love theatre will find a way to make theatre regardless of obstacles and that is a beautiful thing.

On the other hand, isn’t it great when there is money to support such inspiring and visionary work?

Let the rocks cry out.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, Angela....something I needed to hear...

Kaylee said...

Sometimes it takes a huge hurdle like money (or censorship, or shut up judges, whatever) to produce some of the most important and stirring art. Yes, these cuts are devastating and unfair. But I agree that this production of Macbeth is a testament to the power of the work itself, and the drive of those involved, apart from the glitz and excess that we can so often be caught up in.

Chip Burkitt said...

Art is all about creating with limited resources. Good actors, directors, et al. can move us without a lot fancy doodads. And we've all seen productions where the producers plainly piled on more fancy doodads until the entire production collapsed beneath them. Still, actors must eat.