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DOUBLE, DOUBLE TOIL AND TROUBLE.

By AA PATAWARAN

Images by Charlotte Graham Photography

Video by Roc Verdera

What would world history be without Shakespeare? If you look at the number of times Shakespeare is quoted in politics, in general life, in other art forms. The number of times his work has been turned into operas, used in movies, basis for science fiction. It is so much a part of the world we now live in. --Damien Cruden

"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more," but not William Shakespeare, not Macbeth, not A Midsummer Night's Dream or any of his plays, whose wisdom is still quoted, therefore heard over and over and over, in politics, in philosophy, in the arts or in commerce, in daily life today and--to use still a famous, longliving Shakespearean quote from the tragedy Macbeth--"to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow."

'IN THE CAULDRON BOIL AND BAKE'

At Shakespeare's Rose Theater (SRT) on the Blenheim Palace grounds in Oxfordshire, the whole idea of Shakespeare comes even more alive. I am transported to a place long ago, more than 400 years back, where, on his way from Stratford to London, Shakespeare himself might have walked past.

Blenheim has since come a long way. A century after Shakespeare's death in April 1616, Blenheim Palace was built, a gift of Queen Anne to John and Sarah Churchill, the first duke and duchess of Marlborough. In this very place, a little over two centuries later, Winston Churchill was born. Currently home to James and Edla Spencer-Churchill, the 12th duke and duchess of Marlborough, it is now, both the historic house and the formal gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

At the popup Rose Theater, though a combined ticket to any of the four plays--Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Richard III, and Romeo and Juliet--on the menu entitles the ticket buyer to a tour of the modern-day palace and gardens (play-only tickets are also available), we're back to the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The Rose, preceding The Globe in London, was the first playhouse to ever stage Shakespeare and this popup attempts to replicate the original Elizabethan Rose made of scaffolding, corrugated iron, and timber .

'FIRE BURN, AND CAULDRON BUBBLE'

Outside the theater, true to its Elizabethan vibe, there is a veritable Shakespearean village, replete with a pond and food stands and wagons around it selling all manner of pub grub and drinks like wines, Prosecco, gins, beers, vodkas, and ciders, as well as benches and chairs and table scattered on the hay-strewn grounds. There is even a bear or the impression of a live bear, in memory of the bearbaiting traditions of Elizabethan times.

Inside the theater, two or three levels of roofed galleries can accommodate up to 560 spectators, but in the so-called yard into which the stage extends, there is space enough for 340 of those people whom Hamlet referred to scornfully as "groundlings." In truth, those are the best seats in the house, though it costs cheaper to be on the floor. It's not a good idea for those averse to ground sitting, but when I was there, I saw a lot of people 60 or older squat on the floor, standing up during lulls to stretch their backs and legs.

Inside the theater, two or three levels of roofed galleries can accommodate up to 560 spectators, but in the so-called yard into which the stage extends, there is space enough for 340 of those people whom Hamlet referred to scornfully as "groundlings." In truth, those are the best seats in the house, though it costs cheaper to be on the floor. It's not a good idea for those averse to ground sitting, but when I was there, I saw a lot of people 60 or older squat on the floor, standing up during lulls to stretch their backs and legs.

The playhouse is true to form, a 13-sided enclosure, the equivalent of three double-decker houses in height, whose open design and acoustic properties bring performer and audience closer together. Although the stage itself is covered by a roof, whose ceiling, called "the heavens," is painted with the sun, moon, stars, and other celestials, there is a patch of open sky directly over the yard, so even inside the theater, especially in the yard, you are exposed to the elements, rain or shine or snow, as you are, if you are lucky, to some of the immersive elements of the stage, such as the faux blood squirting out of the sword fights or lashings in, say, Macbeth.

On a personal note, this unique and atmospheric setting, however, is just icing on the cake. The cake, to me, is Macbeth as well as Alex Avery, who plays the titular role in the nine-week run of the tragedy at Shakespeare's Rose Theater at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, as well as A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which Avery also performs as Snug. There are a total of 76 actors playing across the four productions and each actor plays at least two roles, sometimes more, in either pair of productions, Macbeth + A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet + Richard III. I got to see the first pairing that, according to Suzy Cooper, who plays Lady Macbeth in one and Peter Quince in the other, is a perfect combination of dark and light, of heavy and easy, a nightmare and a dream.

'THEN THE CHARM IS FIRM AND GOOD'

How Cooper described it was exactly as I experienced Shakespeare at Blenheim, having watched both plays on the same day and in that order, Macbeth in the mid-afternoon, when daylight conveyed the many nuances of greed turning to guilt, ambition turning to agony, prophecy turning to pandemonium, and A Midsummer Night's Dream closer to dusk, when the gathering darkness was lit up by the fairies and the buoyant mood of the play.

I won't dwell too much on Shakespeare, of whom I'm sure you are aware, having studied his works in high school, a bit in college, and maybe having seen many of their screen adaptations. But these incarnations, produced by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, while prompted by the original text, "suit the action to the word, the word to the action," to quote Shakespeare. I'd like to think it's the bare stage, whose lack of elaborate scenery compels each performer to articulate not only the predicament of his character but also the location, time of day, season of the year, imminent danger, approaching happiness, or brewing storms, but it's really the talent of the creatives behind the company, from James Cundall, chief executive of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and founder of SRT to Macbeth director and overall artistic director at SRT Damien Curden and A Midsummer Night's Dream director Juliet Forster, as well as the actors too many to mention, though I must namedrop Paul Hawkyard, who was as forbidding as Macduff in Macbeth as he was farcical as Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Ellie Burrow, whose performance as Lady Macduff in my estimation matched the terror of Lady Macbeth's "All the perfumes of Arabia" soliloquy, as performed by the elegant Cooper.

I won't tell you anymore, except the good news that all this is coming to Manila, so whatever else I have to tell you, you will have the chance to see for yourself when Lunchbox Theatrical Productions mounts both Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Theater at Solaire, from Sept. 17 to 22.

As Shakespeare would put it, "I should report that which I say I saw, but know not how to do 't."

(02) 891 9999 | Facebook and Instagram: @ltpmanila | lunchbox-productions.com

WATCH:

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__H2WvDWHJ8[/embed]

CAPTION(S):

MIDSUMMER MACBETH Fair is foul and foul is fair but equally mesmerizing in their beauty are Lunchbox Theatrical Productions' staging of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

Macbeth

WHEN THE HURLY-BURLY'S DONE In his moments of doubt, Lady Macbeth is the voice that urges Macbeth to carry out the prophecy

WHAT FOOLS THESE MORTALS BE! Hermia (Francesca Zoutewelle) and Helena (Elexi Walker) share their sorrows in this scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream

'HERE'S THE SMELL OF THE BLOOD STILL' Alex Avery , who plays Macbeth

Suzy Cooper as his lady are masters at the potrayal of guilt and remorse
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Title Annotation:Leisure
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Aug 4, 2019
Words:1397
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