i’ve never been in theatre, even if my mother used to call me dramatic. daily. but i was once – like most seventeen-year-olds of the human species – utterly and pretentiously enamoured of all things dark and mysterious and deliciously supernatural.
so when i was seventeen and my high school English class took up Macbeth and the fresh-faced student teacher told us that real actors always referred to it as “The Scottish Play” because there was A CURSE on the title itself, well! i secretly swore right then and there that i would ne’er speak aloud the dreaded syllables for fear of appearing like an ignorant sot.
of course, i then promptly went out into the world and found lots of other ways to appear an ignorant sot. ahem.
(there was much i didn’t know when i was seventeen. including how much fun it can be to drop the word Macbeth loudly and repeatedly in front of theatrical persons of the young and sincerely serious sort: they get all quivery and smug in their superior knowledge. the fool is one of the finest roles written. they will learn.)
but the curse. ah, the curse. in the long social history surrounding Shakespeare, some nervous or controlling soul became convinced that real spells were being cast by the Weird Sisters, with their catchy “bubble, bubble, toil & trouble”. everybody loves a scandalous improbability, after all. and some productions of Macbeth went awry enough to support the idea that serious bad luck had been invoked. theatre companies, running on rather thin budgets, seem prone to bad luck.
thus, tradition holds that if the play is referred to by title in a theatre, there are cleansing rituals to be performed, most of which involve lines from other Shakespearean plays. who the god of this black magic is thought to be escapes me. possibly Titania, Queen of the Faeries? maybe Caliban?
anyhoo. The Scottish Play. for twenty-plus years, i’ve thought of the word “Macbeth” as a stand-in for all things unspeakable, for that which must not be invoked.
except, of course, it’s taken me years to be able to identify my own Macbeth, my personal doom-word, bringer of the almost comically predictable foul luck that inexplicably seems to leap up exactly when it is most inconvenient. or awkward. or guilt-inducing.
this year, i sorted it out.
it is Travel.
particularly, Conference Travel. as in, whenever one of us goes away the children inevitably fall ill or hurt themselves or stop sleeping or are eaten by the cat or whatnot. you know.
we probably bring the doom of Macbeth down on our own heads, i figured, by acknowledging our travel plans.
so this most recent trip of mine, which came hot on the heels of crazy busy-ness and for which i barely had time to pack anyway got very little anticipatory fanfare in our house. i had an academic conference four hours away. i noted only that i’d be nearby but not home for a few days. i did not speak the word “conference” aloud, and i threw salt over my shoulder whenever i even mentioned i’d be so much as out of the house.
i felt smug and happy and hopeful that Dave and the dear children would escape the curse this time. i had figured it out.
while away, i had the pleasure of seeing Macbeth in a fabulous park production put on by Bard in the Barracks and Theatre UNB.
then i called home. and i laughed and laughed. and thus, even though #thehomeproject is horribly late this week and this is rather an unconventional presentation, blatantly and happily plagiarizing from both Shakespeare and from Elsie & Norm’s MacBeth, well, hell, the show must go on.
The Dramatick Players doth present a Truthfull Accounte
The Curse Which Hangeth On the Cribbe, A Most WoeFul Tragedie
Which Striketh Whenever
One Adulte Doth Go AnyWhere Else.
A Play in Three Actes:
BONNIE & DAVE’S MACBETH
(with apologies to William Shakespeare, John-Christopher Wood, and all the literate people in the universe.)
Scene I: Odell Park, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. Absolutely no thunder and lightning in sight. Cue rain.
Enter three blogger friends, gathered for Congress of the Social Sciences & Humanities 2011 and a special production of The Scottish Play.
All three women wear the slightly wild look of adults who have been Too Busy but are momentarily freed of responsibilities. Two are far from home. Babysitter has been procured for local blogger’s child.
Each of these weird sisters wears rubber boots. One is sporting the same clothes she has worn for more than thirty hours, because Air Canada lost her luggage. All three are smiling. Also, wet.
When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning or in rain?
When the hurlyburly’s cold
When the conference work doth fold
That will be when we’re real old.
Where the place?
Upon the rise.
There to eat some whoopie pies.
Fair is foul and foul is fair
Air Canada lost my underwear.
Scene II: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. The Crib Castle, or Bonnie & Dave’s house, where Bonnie is not, because she is cavorting with bloggers and academics in Fredericton, four hours away.
The house is littered, as after a great battle, with Fisher Price Little People. Enter two small children. The smaller has split her lip wide open.
What bloody child is that? She can report
As seemeth by her plight, of the revolt
The newest state.
That is my sister
Who like a good and hardy badger fought
‘Gainst our captivity. Also, the floor.
Doubtful I stood
Upon the chair. I look’d, listen’d
A drum, a drum,
MacBeth doth come!
Oh valiant Daddy
I am faint, my gashes cry for help.
By the pricking of my thumbs
Something wicked this way comes.
To bed, anon.
We have scotch’d the snake, not kill’d it:
Macbeth is in the house.
Bad luck and bandaids shall be the order of our night.
Scene III: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. The Crib Castle, the middle of the night.
Dave, bleary and nearing hopelessness at the children’s third waking in the course of the night, stumbles back towards his warm bed. He encounters a hallucinatory vision of Bonnie, who appears to be eating whoopie pies. He tries to fall into her arms but bumps painfully onto the floor, where he lies spent. A faint wail begins from the other room.
Is this my partner which I see before me?
Hand toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee,
I have thee not and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, blessed vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A partner of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the child-oppressed brain?
Yes. Thou art away.
They howl, and it is done; their cry invites me.
Hear it not, vision; for it is a knell
That summons me from heaven in to hell.
It cries ‘Sleep no more!’ to all the house:
‘Macbeth hath murder’d sleep, and therefore Cormier
Shall sleep no more; Dave shall sleep no more.’
So foul and fair a day I have not seen.
He rises, and exits, weeping.
(if, of course, this were a proper tragedy, the main character would die. but as the main character in this is the spectre of Macbeth-ish bad luck that haunts us whenever one of us goes away, and we do not seem to know how to kill that particular spectre, alas, the play ends here, with my most sincere apologies to exhausted Dave for his sleepless, bloody travails during my absence, and my thanks to my Fredericton friends and colleagues who made MY trip so (shhhhh) fun.)
((Posey’s lip is recovering nicely)).