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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MACBETH (article first published : 2007-07-3)

Presented by The Dance Factory, PG Sabbagha’s Macbeth has just appeared on the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

In the festival programme publicity, it explains that PG Sabbagha has set the action over a period of 12 hours. His set design features a black and chequered floor, which adds to the frenetic visual impact. To one side of the stage are three trees, perhaps a reminder that “… Burnam Wood to Dunsinane shall come!!

There’s an exclusive party going on – it’s hosted by the company CEO to celebrate the success and subsequent promotion of Macbeth, a high-flying, upwardly mobile businessman.

Carried in on a steel gurney, Dada Masilo gives us an imperious and utterly ruthless Lady Macbeth from her first appearance. What followed was a tour de force performance from this highly focused dancer. Shawn Mothupi is an inscrutable Macbeth, seemingly unmoved by his wife’s behaviour as she makes a play for his female boss, all the while keeping her eyes firmly on him to assess his response. He succumbs to the witches’ manipulations, his body weak to their touch.

Performances to single out are Vishanthi Arumugam as the sultry and passionate boss and Nicola Haskins as one of the Witches, whose energy level was little short of mind-blowing.

In fact, the entire company is to be commended on their energy input as this Macbeth makes great physical demands on them. The momentum is unrelenting and most of the activity is frenzied with dancers falling, leaping and rolling. One yearned for more moments of quiet, being reminded of Macbeth’s line from the play that ordains that sleep is banished.

Written by Michael Gordon, the music (Weather) is challenging and exciting, the full orchestral sound sweeping the saga along. For the first half of the programme, I was hugely impressed by this interaction but then things started to fall apart.

The choreography became repetitive to the point of monotony. The introduction of sirens into the music (at least 15 minutes worth, my ears haven’t recovered yet!) should have created an electrifying effect, but instead simply became a noise as the prolonged discomfort level forced attention away from the performers.

However, once we’d survived that section, things got back on track again as the dance piece headed for its closure. We thankfully connected once again to the vision of the first half and the final moments where Macbeth faces The Child (the future) were most eloquent. – Caroline Smart




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