as if it had never been.
I graduated from college last Saturday. I’m the first person in my family to do so — the first person to get a bachelor’s degree, the first person to go on to graduate school.
I’m still reeling from it, to be honest. I met a lot of people in those four years that I consider my friends, and the fact of the matter is that I’m probably not going to see them much anymore. We’ll meet up, yes, but those friendships cannot persist in the patterns they’ve held. That time is over.
There are a few things I have to do now. I have to get a new car, one that will last me a while and get me across the state for graduate school, and I have to locate a house or an apartment that will allow me to live within the means provided by my fellowship. I’ve spent the majority of today running between car dealers and banks trying to work out specifics on a loan, which is something a generous financial aid package in undergrad never prepared me for. It is all quite harrowing, but added to that I’m going to a research conference in Seattle next week, and that will eat some of my time.
What I am saying is that I’ve become a rather terrible blogger, who very rarely posts anymore and when he does post things are all sorts of uninteresting. This is partly because I tend to have to react to something to actually write a post — I mean, there has to be some article or video for me to respond to. This hasn’t been happening lately, and my fallback in those cases in essays, but then I haven’t had much time to write silly extra essays for this blog, and I haven’t had an opportunity to clean up some older undergrad essays for observance.
I hope to remedy this soon.
In the meantime, let’s talk about what we always talk about, Macbeth. I finally got around to watching the Great Performances Patrick Stewart thing that aired last fall, and you can watch it here! And I gotta tell you, this is actually really excellent.
Let’s keep this brief, starting with the good things. First of all, Stewart rocks the shit out of this role. He plays Macbeth with the sort of terrifying insecurity that I find most interesting in the character, and his take on Lady Macbeth’s death was unlike any way I’d seen it played. Rather than making Macbeth an inhuman monster (the old school take) or making him a sad crazy human dude (the more contemporary take) this production manages to mix both approaches, creating a Macbeth who is a monster because he is human. Lady Macbeth is suitably terrifying, as well, and though I don’t quite like the “crazy bitch” line of thought on her, it works here reasonably well. The generational difference between the Macbeths, furthermore, underscores the play’s issues of childrearing and legacy, again, in a way I’ve never seen before.
The presentation of the witches was mostly cool. There’s also a contemporary tendency to make the witch scenes rather metaphysical and subdued, which I think is a shame because this is theater and we want to see blood splattering and Black Masses and so on. My only issues with the witches here, really, are how they are apparently also ghosts (?) and the fact that they rap. Yes, they rap the “Double Double” scenes, because the they are witches who look like war nurses in what appears to be Stalinist Russia and that totally makes sense. (It doesn’t.) Other than the rapping, though, I thought that scene was actually really well done. This production also had the least teeth-grindy rendition of Lady Macduff’s scenes, and it was pretty damn effective. Actually the whole thing, I think, did a pretty good job with the “world has gone to hell” thing that shows up in the misrule tragedies.
That said, here are some things (aside from rapping) that weren’t so great: the scene where Macduff confronts Malcolm in England was a drag, as so often is, and the Stalinist Russia setting, while cool, never coalesces into anything meaningful. The porter was played as creepy, which is sort of good I guess, except I prefer a seriocomic portrayal and they tried to make this dude actually scary? And by scary I mean just sort of over-the-top and grating. Also, he was the character of Seyton, which is a neat double I guess but I didn’t like how they were playing him anyway so it was just more grating.
All in all I think this is a really good Macbeth and one worth seeing, though it might not overturn your conceptions about the play. It’s based on a production from a few years ago that was runaway successful, and I know at least three people who saw it at the time. One was the father of a friend, a cross-cultural psychologist who specializes in US-Russia exchange, and from what I can tell he loved it to bits. The other two people were Shakespeare professors — one being my longstanding pal and former instructor Brainworm, who was basically incredulous w/r/t rapping witches, while according to Brian, my Shakespeare professor when I was in London, the staging was an absolute mess, Stewart kept forgetting his lines (???), and Lady Macbeth was wandering around with a babydoll strapped to her or something.
So, going in knowing it was a version of that staging definitely led to a few surprises in that it was actually a pretty solid thing, with the rapping being the only standout moment of “what are they thinking, what is happening.” If you’ve got three hours to spend, there are far worse ways to spend them — it’s a competent production, and by far the good choices made during its shooting outweigh the bad ones.
I’m still not sure what will be in this space next week. As I said, I’ll be in Seattle at a conference and probably won’t have time to write something original, so I’ll comb through my essay backlog and see what shakes loose.