Home Samurai culture “The Scottish Play” revitalized with Denzel Washington in the lead role

“The Scottish Play” revitalized with Denzel Washington in the lead role


LIKE many Scots I have been programmed to list the many inventions and innovations that Scotland has brought to the world, telephone, television, penicillin, we can recite them like poetry.

It is a poem that I receive with mixed emotions, a shattered national pride that also conceals an insecurity, which we must prove to the outside world.

Periodically I like to turn the game around and ask a different question – what did the famous English pioneers give Scotland. For me, there is an awesome answer, bigger than Jethro Tull’s Drill or Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web.

I have been a long-time fan of a short but towering work of genius steeped in scottishness, William Shakespeare’s The Macbeth Tragedy.

Macbeth is not only one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, but it is a unique commercial, performed daily somewhere in the world, promoting Scotland and its landscapes in all their dramatic wonders: vast forests, supernatural legends and dark castles.

This is the play Visit Scotland would have written if they could have flipped a quill.

Despite all of its historical inconsistencies, I admit I’m a boring Macbeth and so anyone who can trace their ancestors to the ghost of Banquo should stop reading now.

My fascination with Macbeth started in elementary school when I realized that the landscape in which Shakespeare placed his play could be seen from my bedroom window. My walk to school took me along Birnam Crescent and Dunsinane Drive and the darkness of Macbeth’s world seemed to hang like guilt over Tweedsmuir and the old Rannoch Road.

Like a Harry Potter fan waiting on platform 9½ for the train to Hogwarts, I am so excited I am delirious to see the latest iteration of the Scottish play, The Tragedy of Macbeth by Joel Coen which received rave reviews at the New York Film of this year. Festival. The cast is from the very first drawer, with Denzel Washington as Cawdor’s Thane and Frances McDormand as his ruthlessly ambitious wife.

I’ve watched the mind-blowing trailer on repeat before and browsed production footage, reviews online and my expectations are very high.

There are so many reasons to love Macbeth. The play haunted the very psyche of live theater. It’s a name that you should never say out loud inside a performance hall in case it brings bad luck and puts a curse on the cast. The words you are allowed to say are simply “The Scottish Play,” a worldwide theatrical tradition that puts Scotland on the lips of every serious player in the world.

American filmmakers Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, known as The Coen Brothers

Ahead of the opening of Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth at this year’s New York Film Festival, the director confessed that the cast and crew embarked on Shakespeare’s adaptation with disregard of the old superstition according to to mention the coin by name would spell disaster.

Then Covid came in to charge during rehearsals, their production stopped and some of the cast fell ill. When they regrouped the actors, chastened by their experience, they agreed to use only the generic term The Tragedy and the main characters like “the Thane of Cawdor and his wife”.

Superstition has proven to be more powerful than rational speech.

Like so many of Shakespeare’s great tragedies, Macbeth transmitted an allegorical language that has survived to the present day – “the milk of human goodness”, “tears shall choke the wind” and “out of place” are among the many sentences that speak of the complex interior morality of the room.

There are many potential routes through the Interpretive Forest, there is the powerful and disturbing presence of women, among them the Three Witches and the requisitioning Lady Macbeth. But it is also a psychoanalyst’s dream, restless sleep, unruly nights, nightmarish visions, the ghost of Banquo, the counterfeit of death and all the troubled tomorrows.

It’s a play so rich in performance that it could be Scotland itself.

There is yet another reason for my fascination. The uniqueness of our history. Macbeth is the most famous drama of the Scottish Independence Years, centuries before the Union, when witches strangely clung to the undergrowth and camouflaged armies marched over dark terrain.

No one has come out of the shadows to deliver the GERS numbers, and you can use a ryal, bawbee, or oatmeal without patronizing or needing a central bank.

Like the Twa Corbies ‘hiding behind a broken sea wall’, there is something macabre and sinister about Macbeth’s Scotland, a place where wonder and gloom coexist.

THE casting of Coen’s version is exceptional. The formidable presence of Coen’s wife Frances McDormand and winner of the Best Actress award for her role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Montana adds gravity to literally every scene she appears in. She is much more than a counterweight to Denzel Washington and seems a conspiratorial presence even when she’s not speaking.

The online cultural magazine Vulture describes Washington as if he was born to play Macbeth. “Washington achieves the nearly impossible feat of pronouncing his lines as if he were putting the words together in the moment, uttering some of the English language’s most famous phrases as if they were taken from Macbeth’s restless conscience,” criticizes Allison Willmore writes. “When he kills King Duncan under his own roof, coming towards the man in the night and stabbing him in his bed, the haunted stillness on his face testifies that a man comes to a new understanding of his own dark abilities. ”

What is remarkable about Macbeth is his adaptability that applies to so many societies, from distant Scotland to the venal and careerist banking system of Canary Wharf.

Macbeth has found political and cultural expression around the world. Japan designed two of the most memorable versions, Yukio Ninagawa’s stage production first premiered at Tokyo’s Nissei Theater in 1980 was given the nickname “Kabuki Macbeth” and had a visually striking Buddhist altar as its centerpiece.

A film adaptation known as Throne Of Blood, directed by Akira Kurosawa, sets Macbeth’s story in the world of the samurai.

Denzel Washington’s lead role as the troubled Scottish King lit a torch on another famous adaptation, Landmark Voodoo Macbeth, a nickname for the 1936 New York production of the US Federal Theater Project.

A young Orson Welles adapted and directed the production, moving the set for the play from Scotland to a fictional Caribbean island, presumed to be Haiti.

Orson Welles, 20, recruited an all-black cast and used Haitian voodoo imagery to take on the eerie supernatural role of Scottish witchcraft.

The all-black production became a box office sensation, which toured America separately, and is now considered a landmark event in American theater.

I can see the significance of the Prince of Denmark’s and the Venetian Merchant’s contractual disputes with Shylock the

Jewish but none reach the grim disappointments of Birnam Wood as he walks towards Dunsinane

Along with whiskey and Outlander’s episodes, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is one of our biggest exports. Denzel Washington played his part; all we need now is Brain Cox to leave Succession and pick up his dagger.

“Confusion has now made its masterpiece. ”