Having only ever seen a comedically doomed high school rendition of Macbeth, the Aquila Theatre company’s Friday night performance at the Alberta Bair Theater revolutionized my limited live-action Shakespeare experiences, solidifying the famous tragedy as an all-time favorite. As many know, the Bard’s play, or Shakespeare’s Scottish play, as it was called for the entirety of the evening for superstition’s sake, focuses on a courageous and honorable Scottish general who receives a prophecy from three witches, otherwise known as The Weird Sisters, that leads him, with the help of his enterprising wife, to acquiring power and status at the expense of their moral consciousness. Despite the sudden disappearance of nearly half the audience by the end of intermission, director Desiree Sanchez created a world of eerie wickedness and all-consuming madness through startling sound effects, simple set decor with a frequently fluctuated backdrop by means of a projector, as well as a stunning group of diverse and talented actors. The titular character as played by James Lavender delivered a performance notably reminiscent of Damian Lewis’ in Carlo Carlei’s 2013 Romeo and Juliet in both passion and precision.
Though the Q&A proceeding the play proved Lavender to be an agreeable guy, it was difficult to keep one’s mind off the very realness of his character’s autocratic behavior, reminding one of the tyrants in our present political sphere. Like Macbeth, Vladimir Putin is a textbook example of the same sort of tyrannical spirit that history’s played witness to, have often presented themselves as people like Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, and a couple of other notorious Vladimirs. Unwarranted draconian forces have always played a part in defining eras of humanity which is emphasized in the fact that the real Macbeth, as defined by Holinshed’s Chronicles as a true historical figure, was ultimately known for his cruelty, particularly in contradiction to the seemingly spineless Duncan, another very real character of the play. More often than not, it can feel as though history does not teach us how to change but rather reveals to us our inherent inability to do so. As bleak as that may sound, I believe Shakespeare, while portraying humans at our lowest, has simultaneously gifted us a sort of consolation through his work. As Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, “The world will be saved by beauty,” which denotes that in spite of the horrific acts thatboth Putin and Macbeth have shown we are capable of, in the end, it will be art, beauty, literature, and poetry which will be our solace, not merely as an expression of escapism but as a haven. Storytelling, much more so than war, has persisted past tragedy, both thematic and real, and will continue to do so for years to come.