POST: 'Macbeth (Of the Oppressed)' - why can’t a queen rule?

What's it about?

Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth performed in a new rendition where half of the characters undergo a gender swap, adding new dimension and a modern take on the famous play. 

What did I experience?

I studied Macbeth in my sophomore English class, where we analyzed and over-analyzed the symbolism of pretty much every word in the script. So, seeing Macbeth (Of the Oppressed) was a completely new experience for me, because I've never seen a play where I was already familiar with the content. I’m used to entering a theatre space with my mind a blank canvas, ready for the cast to paint a story before my eyes. Being familiar with the story was actually helpful for me, I mean Shakespeare's language can be very difficult to follow without annotated notes. However, seeing it was much more interesting than simply reading the script at 10pm on a school night because you have to finish your assigned questions.

Gender switching of certain roles created a new environment in the world of Macbeth, one that made me want to grab a sword and jump right in. Why can’t a queen rule over all of Scotland? (I mean, she dies, but still.) Why can’t a girl be the one to slay Macbeth? The roles of these gender swapped characters are never questioned within the play because they stuck so closely to the original script, save for a few changes in pronouns. I remember learning that in the beginnings of theatre, women were not allowed to perform on stage, so men portrayed female characters. Now that women are allowed to represent themselves in plays. movies and television - it was only a matter of time before someone had the idea to put more women in Shakespeare. Maybe they have before. But for me, this was new.

Having same-sex couples portrayed in this interpretation of Macbeth combats the heteronormativity that emanates through our television screens and story books. Personally, I thought it would have been interesting to see Macbeth be played by a woman-- it would definitely give Lady Macbeth’s speech about “being a man” an intriguing dimension. However, the fact that Lady Macbeth’s character was actually Husband Macbeth in this play was just as intriguing as the aforementioned. In questioning Macbeth’s masculinity, Husband Macbeth proclaims that he would have killed his own child if he had sworn to. The lines stay the same as the original, but instead of the original Shakespeare, where a man is portraying a woman, a man is playing a man. The original vision may be emphasizing the love a mother has for their child, but to me, this version encompasses everyone in a parental position. What parent could really bring themselves to kill their own child?

The soliloquies of this play were vaguely familiar, because when I studied the play each student in the class had to recite a soliloquy. We were allowed to use props if we felt we needed them. As Macbeth took the stage and began sharing his plot to kill Banquo, I found myself repeating the words in my head as he spoke-- except mine were in a Scottish accent. It was the soliloquy that I had performed two years ago, and I couldn’t help but smile (which is probably a bit inconsiderate considering Banquo was about to get killed off) and wonder how everyone would sound if they did the entire play using Scottish accents. In a way, I had also played Macbeth, and I was able to compare my performance to the actor’s. We emphasized different words, and used different tones at different instances. My Macbeth and his Macbeth were not the same at all. It might be because I wore black lipstick when I did it (trying to identify with the darkness of the soliloquy, of course), but who can really say for sure...


Want to see it?

$15 Student Tickets

Macbeth (of the Oppressed)
The Theater at the 14th St. Y
thru Oct. 24