Wildside Review: “Macbeth Muet” a visceral reimagining of a Shakespearean classic

Special Festival Coverage

Image courtesy of La Fille Du Laitier

A speechless (but not exactly a wordless – and certainly not a soundless) retelling of the Scottish Play, Macbeth Muet is the low budget, high impact brainchild of La Fille Du Laitier co-artistic director Marie Hélène Bélanger and director Jon Lachlan Stewart. Deconstructed and condensed into a 55-minute, two-cast piece of object puppetry and pantomime of Shakespeare’s tragedy, this contemporary take on the classic is as wildly imaginative as they come.

Note: audiences should be familiar enough with the source material to enjoyably follow the vigorous action, but placards aid in prompting key events, figures, and thoughts.

Actor-puppeteers Jeremie Francoeur and Clara Prévost emerge chalk-faced to ritualistically present the eponymous characters and their fateful narratives from behind a long white table. Layers of clean paper line the furnishing to display an array of found objects in a most amusing representation of known supporting players: Banquo as a paper plate with eyeholes, Macduff as a hockey glove, and Duncan as a King card. Origami mutate into crowns and witches while candelabras serve as makeshift forests. Knives, however, can be credited as appearing – or apparating – very much as themselves.

Oh, and there’s eggs – lots of eggs. But expect crackings, whippings, and beatings of less wholesome, Betty-Crocker-esque sorts.

As the paper playing field is adorned with blood (fake), semen (imagined), and yolk (raw and real – beware the first few rows) in fights and fornications to the throne, layers of contaminated sheets are unceremoniously discarded into the trash bin. Hands remain tainted, though, literally and figuratively. The clinical calm in the aftermath of mayhem makes for chilling moments amidst the horror and heartbreak. 

Stripped of the bard’s rich language, the beauty of the minimalist Macbeth Muet lies in the visceral emotions evoked by the piece’s powerful imagery. This ingenious theatrical interpretation of Shakespeare’s work is a true testament to the power of non-verbal expression, here rendered by the extraordinary physical and emotional commitment of its skilled artists. Francoeur’s and Prévost’s synchronized focus is a laudable feat in itself, and they are well served by the sound design of Stewart. His precisely timed bells punctuate scene, plot, character, and idea shifts, and the agile performing pair swiftly follow to vividly communicate avarice, passion, grief, and treachery.

Among the renewed reflections on the original script brought on by experiencing this fresh rendition is that of the factoring of parenthood – or lack thereof – in the titular couple’s descent into madness (cue eggs). The three prologues contrasting the different family histories and dynamics (Macbeth x Banquo x Macduff) are intrepid and purposeful insertions, and amount to being the rollicking highlights of the night.

It is most fortuitous that the critically and publicly acclaimed creation by local company La Fille du Laitier breathes new life at the Wildside, for we too are rejuvenated by this riveting recounting.

It’s bold, it’s brutal, and it’s bloody good (bad pun intended). 

The 2019 Wildside Festival presents La Fille du Laitier’s Macbeth Muet.

Performances: Jan. 8 at 9pm, Jan. 10 at 9pm, & Jan. 13 at 3pm.
Duration: 55 minutes
Venue: Centaur Theatre | 453 St Francois Xavier St.
Warning: Recommended ages 12+
Admission: $16 Adults | $13 Students/Seniors/Under 30s
Box Office: 514-288-3161 | www.centaurtheatre.com/wildside-festival

For more 2019 Wildside Festival reviews, head over to www.montrealtheatrehub.com/wildside-festival-2019/

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