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As a Zen Zen Zo director, how would the title role, Macbeth, be portrayed in the Shakespearian classic?

Zen Zen Zo is an Australian theatre based company which is known for its renowned exemplification of physical theatre which is showcased during its productions. Formed in 1992, the company’s aesthetic derives from traditional Asian theatre and dance methodology, which is to ignite spirituality during onstage performance. The company is also known for the numerous classic texts it has interpreted such as, for instance, the Greek tragedy, The Bacchae, as well as for its many unique and highly engaging self-devised pieces – Zeitgeist comfortably fits into this category. Through what is often viewed by many theatre critics as being an extraordinarily physical and devout nature of performance, the possibility of a Zen Zen Zo interpretation of the Shakespearian classic, Macbeth, could be explored and analysed. A more in-depth analysis of the Zen Zen Zo theatre form and the classic text could also constitute for the study of how the character of Macbeth would be portrayed during what would be a very unique, gripping, and perhaps overall bizarre and unorthodox interpretation. Zen Zen Zo directors are generally viewed as being more of an overall facilitator to the course of a production. They are not seen particularly as being the catalyst and craftsmen to how the action of a play or performance is structured, but more so as an onlooker and to provide guidance or an authorised opinion to actors. Zen Zen Zo directors are believed to be lenient and patient with their actors. It would be common for a director from this theatre form to allow the actors in which they employ to spend bulks of time researching and understanding physical theatre, rather than for them to be thrown into the deep end of a cataclysmically battering task of staging theatrical physicality without much experience or knowledge in how to do so – performing in a Zen Zen Zo production must be done with a sufficiently high level of expertise and intricacy. An important starting point, especially for the actor playing Macbeth, would be for the director to have the actor carefully consider the Ann Bogart viewpoints. The viewpoints are a fundamental establishment of physical performance and an actor simply must be familiar with them in order to exercise a performance of a physical nature. Despite the frequent importance of the viewpoints, they would only be noticeably staged from the point of when the scene, in which Macbeth is wickedly manipulated into slaughtering King Duncan in order to claim his throne, is played out. This very suspenseful scene would be orchestrated, from the eye of a director, by exploring the subsection of spatial relationships - a concept existing under the category of ‘space’ in the viewpoints. As Macbeth creepily and yet cunningly slips past a host of drunken sleepers, inanimate objects and into Duncan’s room, the actor would be encouraged to maintain an interesting and captivating posture, but to also keep a consistent distance between him and the architecture of the stage. The actor would also need to develop an understanding of topography, which is the movement over landscape and floor pattern for performing this

scene. The actor’s shape would be highlighted by only his shadow, visible to the audience as of when Macbeth drives the fatal dagger into Duncan’s body. As well as providing a pulsating watch point, this effect would also be a dramatic representation of the clandestineness and darkness which fuel the sinister motives of the character during this scene. The director would consider the shape of Macbeth’s body in comparison to the dead to the world Duncan, who actually becomes dead to the world in only a matter of seconds. The shadowy effect of the murder being staged would create an extraordinary view of Macbeth’s arms as he stands readily poised with a dagger, thus creating the perfect arch, angles, curves and lines which all compliment Ann Bogart’s definition of shape. As a director, all aspects of the actor’s portrayal must be carefully considered, and for this scene the actor would be told to possess a behavioural gesture, which is descried as being a realistic gesture belonging to the physical world as we observe it every day. This way, the audience can relate to the character’s emotion through his raw amplification of violent determination. The concept of kinaesthetic response would also be visited in this critical scene, as the actor of Macbeth would be advised to instantly react differently and suddenly to the repeated stabbing of Duncan. Upon rehearsals, actors would be provided with the opportunity to train appropriately for the rigorous undertaking of Suzuki’s method of theatrically staged physicality. The Suzuki method, deriving from Japanese artist Tadashi Suzuki, focuses on ‘heightening the actor’s awareness of their own physical habits, limitations and energies, as the body then becomes open to exploring emotion and truth’. The character playing Macbeth would be dictated Suzuki’s teachings, and then nurtured through undergoing extensive physical obstacles which they would be forced to overcome in order to thoroughly grasp Suzuki. The actor playing Macbeth would be advised to perform the death walk, one of Suzuki’s notable creations, during the scene in which Macduff and Macbeth fiercely battle through the travesty of a swordfight. The death walk is known as the process of steadily and smoothly travelling toward a set direction to form a counterpoint with an opponent. This is the exact notion in which Macbeth’s fatal encounter with Macduff, the thane of fife, could be masterfully portrayed via the use of physical theatre. The actor playing Macbeth would also be assigned the role of performing an inseparable ‘kiss or kill’ action amid the portrayal of the Macbeth – Macduff dual. This is known as an extremely close, face-to-face gesticulation, in which both actors stare in each other’s eyes, not intimately but fiercely. It is the ultimate representation of a hasty conflict, which is no doubt parallel to that of Macbeth and Macduff’s bout. The actor playing Macbeth would also be assigned to perform elements of what is known as Butoh. Butoh is a collective name for unusual and absurd forms of dance, performance and inspired movement, also deriving from Asia. For the scene in Shakespeare’s masterpiece during which Macbeth hallucinates dramatically after believing to have witnessed the ghost of Banquo, a sideshow of a Butoh-based performance would be truly fitting. The actor

would use Butoh to physically portray a perplexed, deliriously dramatized, quickly decaying King. The technical aspects of the production such as lighting, sound/music and costume would all cater for the desired portrayal of Macbeth. The actor playing the role of Macbeth would be fitted to his appropriate size and his costume would be designed with the intention of allowing the actor to breathe and move in it freely, enabling him to perform highly physical content at the mandatory demand of a Zen Zen Zo standard. The costume would look basic yet relevant – resoundingly depicting the formalwear of an olden day King. The backdrop of the set would be the inside of a stereotypical castle, with the foreground designed to look like a paddock. Lighting would progress from bright at the beginning to coincide with the beginning of the story, and progress to gradually darken to represent the transition of Macbeth from neutral to evil – and this technique is often seen in many theatrical Zen Zen Zo interpretations such as The Bacchae. Sounds would not be naturalistic; they would be consistently thunderous and artificial, which compliments the play’s mood pattern of being continuously deleterious for the main characters, including Macbeth. To finalise a lengthy, arduous rehearsal process, the director would apply what is known as the layering of the script onto text. This process is where the director will solidly reflect on what looks to be their final product, before making critical changes to dialogue and blocking which they may not see fit to their best possible impression of how Macbeth should be portrayed using the Zen Zen Zo theatre form. Once the director is fully satisfied, the actor can rest assured that the director’s impression of Macbeth in which they are portraying is ready to be unveiled to an audience. Once the director has reviewed all aspects of a forthcoming production, such as Macbeth in this case, it is importantly up to them to ensure that the performance will be accessible to a wide range of audiences. This concept is one of the fundamental principles in Zen Zen Zo productions. The general philosophy which the theatre company Zen Zen Zo conveys through its aesthetic and through its multitude of previous interpretations, indicates that the company’s ultimate intention is to portray a story through physicality in theatre, not naturalism, and the production hereby outlined remains true to these intentions and abides by the aesthetic.