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13Nov

Shogun Macbeth - Lake Braddock Secondary School - Burke, Virginia - November 11, 2017

Tayah Frye

Potomac Senior High School

 

Swords violently clash together, blood spews from fallen Samurai, leaving the final two Rikosho pitted against one another. "Macbeth! Macbeth!" the Yojo hissed in unison as Macbeth and Macduff drew their swords for the final battle. The stage bathed in an eerie mixture of red and subdued orange lights to capture the mood of anguish that haunted the rivals. Lake Braddock's artfully constructed rendition of "Shogun Macbeth" left audiences gasping and wide eyed as they anticipated the next scene.

 

Originally published in 1986 by John R. Briggs, the classic Shakespearean tale of Macbeth is given a new setting with the same themes of corrupt power and spiraling ambition. Now set in 13th century Japan, Macbeth is consumed by ambition as the Three Yojo cast a spell upon him. With the help of his wife, he commences a plot to slaughter his way to be the new Shogun.

 

The cast and crew of "Shogun Macbeth" played off one another to deliver a seamless production incorporating the use of an intricate set, jaw-dropping technical aspects, and complex emotions from the actors. Authentic aspects of Japanese culture were well rehearsed and memorized by the entire cast to further enhance the delivery of the overall production.

 

The transformation of Macbeth descending into his own madness was captured by J. Carlin Decker III as he sprang to life in the second act. Following the harrowing death of Fujin Macbeth, Decker did not miss a beat as he continued with his deranged monologue in preparation for battle. Carrying on with one of the most powerful scenes within the production, Emily Smith left audiences gasping as she took her own life as Fujin Macbeth. An audible gasp echoed through the audience following Smith's gut wrenching scream as she impaled herself.

 

The embodiment of the Three Yojo by Gillian Church, Natalie Hill, and Erin Mullins practically stole the show. The trio flawlessly delivered lines in unison all while contorting their bodies to entice their prey. Their enunciation rang out into the audience making them even more intimidating. The makeup of the Three Yojos stood out amongst the rest of the female cast, it stayed intact throughout the entirety of the production, popping from the curtain opening to closing.

 

The set of "Shogun Macbeth" also stayed true to traditional Japanese culture. Set designer Erik Wells could incorporate the symmetry of Japanese architecture as well as the prominence of sliding doors. An intricate set was balanced out by an equally as enticing use of lighting to guide the mood of a scene. Light designer Brian Wolf could successfully highlight the moods of characters by bathing them in a variety of colored lights. For instance, bathing Banquo (played by Roger Clanton) in red lights after his death depicted the violence and betrayal surrounding him.

 

Lake Braddock's "Shogun Macbeth" leaned heavily on the flawless execution of technical aspects to support the tortuous emotional delivery from the cast, leading to an overall awe-striking production.


Olivia Parker

Teens and Theatre Company

 

Blood seeps across the land like ink spilt on a scroll when the Scottish Play unfurls in feudal Japan. Shogun Macbeth follows the enterprising titular character's rise to pernicious power, aided by mystical beings and a manipulative spouse, that ends in complete devastation. Combining a classic tale with centuries old traditions, Lake Braddock's performance of John R. Briggs' adaptation corroborates the theory that Shakespeare's tales enthrall - no matter the setting.

 

Mystical, eerie, and alarming, the three Yojo witches – literally translated as screw or twist - demanded attention. Gillian Church, Natalie Hill, and Erin Mullins, oscillated between a single unit and three distinct entities with vicious grace. The famous "Double double toil trouble" scene was effortlessly performed in Japanese, accompanied by other-worldly movement that blended seamlessly with their malicious deeds.

 

Macbeth is introduced in an account of his valor told by a soldier. By the end, the ambition, strength, and stratagem that made him an honorable samurai have warped his character into a cruel tyrant. J. Carlin Decker III navigated both the ideal representation of nobility, and the power-drunk madman with tact. Drawing on the symmetry found throughout Japanese culture, his counterpart, Fujin Macbeth (Emily Smith), begins as steely and tenacious, but takes her own life because she cannot bear the weight of the lives she has taken.

 

While the actors strove to Shakespeare's words, the production teams labored honoring a culture predating the Bard by a thousand years. Countless details added vital authenticity to the show. Nodding to a style of Japanese dance-drama in which makeup and movement denote character, the Yojo wore stark white and blue Kabuki makeup. Shyanne Hall's focus on respectfully applying all the makeup worn elevated looks past appropriation. Erik Wells' set included platforms, ramps, stairs, and traditional Japanese sliding doors. Even the artful drape of Lauren Porter's kimonos (34 of 131 handmade pieces) was researched. More graphic touches, provided by Sarah McDaniels, included blood packets and squeeze devices for several battles, and one shockingly effective severed head.

 

The final bloody crescendo began with the Yoko whispering "...Macbeth…" in the aisles as the violent battle raged. They gradually became louder until none but now Shogun Macbeth and his foe MacDuff still fought. Black shrouded versions of those felled in Macbeth's quest for power join the three Yoko in chanting, "Macbeth." The Shogun is thrown to the ground. "Macbeth!" A katana flashes through the air. "Macbeth!" The gripping silhouette of a severed head is held aloft in front of a red sky, and fate has run its bloody course for "Macbeth!"

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