Having quickly got over the apparent ‘bad luck’ in saying ‘Macbeth’, since ten-year-olds apparently don’t understand why I’m saying ‘The Scottish Play’, even when I say it really loudly, I have actually found myself quite isolated by the school production of Macbeth.
Don’t get me wrong, I love school productions. I love the atmosphere it gives to the school, and the confidence it gives to the children. I love rehearsals and – even though I am entirely responsible for all the sound – I love performance nights. It makes me feel proud of the place in which I work, and the people with whom I work.
What does make me feel somewhat isolated with this particular play is that I experience it from a different perspective to anyone else. For me, Macbeth is a timeless study of madness – or, as the politically correct amongst us like to call it these days ‘mental health’. Obviously, I have had my own experience with crazy, and – unexpectedly, admittedly – this has really affected me.
The scene where Lady Macbeth attempts to wash away her guilt. I’ve been there. Not, obviously, having murdered my way to being Queen. But I know what it feels like to try and rid myself of imagined physical manifestations, stemming from guilt, anxiety; a feeling of having done wrong.
Whilst excited children bounce around my feet, telling me that ‘Lady Macbeth does suicide’, my heart breaks at the thought that anyone would ever feel compelled to take their own life. What is a shrouded, exciting mystery for my class, understood only as part of a play where one of them gets to scream as loudly as they possibly can, is part of horrible reality.
“Therein the patient
Must minister to herself”
Says the doctor about Lady Macbeth’s fast increasing madness. If I had a pound for every time I had been told that recovery had to come from within, rather than waiting for someone to come along and do it for me, I would be substantially richer than I am now. What is strange about this is hearing the message spoken across five hundred years. It is strangely comforting to have proof that I am not the first – not alone in my illness, or my recovery.
Finally, there are the witches. The outward manifestations of the lies fed to me by my mind. It is not appropriate to ask the children whether they think the witches real or not; whether they see them as being Macbeth’s madness taking root, or whether they are indeed hags upon the heath. Neither is it appropriate to engage other members of staff in the conversation because they are mostly themselves engaged in props, or making sure children are in the right place.
I’m sorry if this comes across as a bizarre, slightly nonsensical post. I wanted to write about my experiences with Macbeth, and this seemed the only place in which I could do so. As I get older, so Shakespeare becomes more pertinent, more poignant; the stories more relevant.
If anybody has any views, ideas etc., please share them with me – I’d love to hear them.