The staging of a production is an important part of any play. Be it a traditional proscenium arch, thrust or in-the-round staging, sight lines of an audience are taken into consideration and the staging can have a major effect on your intended outcome.
A 2017 production at the Citizens Theatre of ‘The Macbeths’ (a retelling of the famous Shakespearean tragedy, based on the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth) set the stage in-the-round with only a bed in the center and various items such as clothes and vodka bottles scattered around. It looked modern and exciting but the production fell short.
For me, the staging was the best part of that play and even that had its issues. Whilst the bedroom setting made sense for the production, as we focused on the relationship between the two leading roles, the use of the set and stage was untidy. It left me, as an audience member, disappointed. For example, there was a particular moment in which Macbeth appeared from the side of the bed with a bloody face symbolizing the deaths of all those he had killed, which I’m sure was great for those opposite him – but for me the moment was ruined as I watched him open a hidden drawer and wipe blood all over his body; something I assume we weren’t meant to see but as this was set in-the-round I had no choice. In this instance the staging started strong,but despite being excited to see a retelling of such a famous play, the set didn’t add anything and I found myself thinking this didn’t need to be set in-the-round at all.
In-the-round staging has its issues. Whilst semiotically it can do wonders for a piece of theatre, as the ever present surrounding audience can represent voyeurism or anxieties, the sight lines of the audience are difficult to deal with. The actors have to be sure every member can view the action happening before them. This particular staging has become a sort of modern phenomena especially for smaller theatre companies. In-the-round means you can’t have too much set, or else it can get in the way of viewing the performance. A production in-the-round can offer a modern take on a classic much like ‘The Macbeths’ attempted.
When producing classics such as Shakespeare productions, staging is often used to bring the play to a modern setting, for example: ‘The Macbeths’ was staged in a bedroom. The Union Theatre’s 2017 production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was staged as two opposing Premier League football teams with the titular characters being two gay men. These stagings can help a modern audience relate to these productions more – but at the end of the day Shakespeare is still Shakespeare and a modern staging doesn’t equal a good production.
Staging is an important part of your overall experience of a production. Dynamic, new stagings of old plays can create excitement and a change from the more traditional productions and can allow an audience member to see the story in a new light. However, it is important for theatre productions to not merely rely on the staging of a performance to modernize the play.
[Kelly Macarthur – @KellyMac96 – They/She]
[Image Credit: flickr/Tony Webster]