Friday, May 29, 2009

Forbidden Interpretation

                             [...] You should be women,
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
That you are so.

I'm starting to work on my lines for this summer's production of Macbeth at First Folio Theatre directed by Nick Sandys.  I'm playing a couple of small ensemble roles (and fighting!) and I'll be understudying the role of Banquo. The quotation above is from Banquo's first line in the play and already it's thoroughly apparent why Shakespeare is so great.

His audience is looking at men playing women.  While we'd like to pretend as though this must have been alienating, we know how easily theater audiences can overcome conventions in their imagination of a production.  The stage crew that you don't see, for instance, or the two chairs side by side that become a car.  But Banquo's line brilliantly exploits this particular convention.  He is "forbidden from interpreting" that the men playing women are women, but they are, but not quite.  He is saying that he is having difficulty making the required (conventional) interpretive leap.  By what is he forbidden? His eyes.  By what is he compelled?  His reason/imagination.  

Thus onstage magic and theatricality are the same.  Banquo's line invites the audience to doubt what we accept is true on account of the evidence of what we know is true, and yet still to uphold what is clearly not true in order to tell the story.  Fantastic.

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