Performances Of Macbeth

Macbeth Performances #

Macbeth is Shakespeare’s most performed play. Its popularity is due to several factors, it is short, it deals realistically with issues that are eternal and it contains references to Witches, Ghosts and Murder.

Macbeth was first performed in 1606 and there is evidence that King James I attended at least one performance. While directors do not normally adapt the text, they often do update the performances by costumes. To demonstrate its universal appeal they may set it in more contemporary times. The Witches are sometimes portrayed as aliens, school girls or other modern representations.

From Delancey Place

“[John Singer] Sargent had painted the forty-two-year-old actress the previous winter. She was then starring as Lady Macbeth in a controver­sial London production. Sargent, an avid theater fan, took in the open­ing performance on December 27, 1888, and audibly gasped upon the actress’s first entrance. That dress! It shimmered like ’the scales of a ser­pent,’ and hugged Terry’s figure like ‘soft chain armour.’ That had been the intent of the costume designer, Alice Strettell Carr, a friend of both Sargent and Terry. …

“But the dress hadn’t come easily. Carr couldn’t find any fabric in England to cre­ate the sensuous yet metallic look she had in mind. She imported fine yarn from Bohemia – strands of green silk twisted with blue tinsel – and then crocheted the yarn into a dress based on a thirteenth-century design. It was floor length with large sweeping sleeves, but still lacked the theatri­cal brilliance to project to the final row of the theater. Inspiration came in the form of luminous insects. Carr had countless iridescent beetle wings sewn all over the dress. In a finishing touch, she arranged rubies and diamonds along the edges of the costume to create Celtic-style patterns.

“Upon seeing Terry in that fabulous dress with her hair hanging to her knees – ‘magenta hair!’ Sargent exulted in a letter to the art collec­tor Isabella Stewart Gardner in Boston – Sargent knew that he had to paint her in full costume. It took some arm-twisting, but Terry finally relented and arrived by carriage to Sargent’s Tire Street studio one soggy morning. (Across the road, Oscar Wilde was riveted as he looked out his library window to witness ’the vision of Lady Macbeth in full regalia magnificently seated in a four-wheeler.’ Such ‘wonderful possibilities’ the street now possessed, Wilde mused.)”

Sargent’s Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas, Donna M. Lucey, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright 2017 Pages: 4-5