Culture | Is this contemporary relevance I see before me?

Alternative theatre company does Macbeth in Haitian Creole

The Other Theatre is a non-profit alternative theatre organization in Montreal. From April 7 to 28 at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, the company will present Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Set in modern-day Haiti and performed in French and Creole, this is an original adaptation that re-imagines Macbeth’s protagonist as a power-seeking soldier. The Daily talked to artistic director Stacey Christodoulou about the genius of Shakespeare, magic, and weird timing.

The McGill Daily: What inspired you to set Macbeth in modern-day Haiti?
Stacey Christodoulou: About two years ago, Bryna Wasserman – who’s the artistic director for the Segal Centre – asked me to do a classical piece for a studio that they were going to inaugurate. I’ve always wanted to do a classical piece, and my favourite play is Macbeth. Years before, I had done research on Orson Welles and I knew that he had done a production of Macbeth set in Haiti, in the ’30s. I did research on the Internet and I fell upon this newsreel of this show that was done in 1935…. I thought the idea, even though his production was a bit overblown, still has some merit to it because there’s a huge Haitian population here in Montreal.

MD: How has the plot been altered to fit with its Haitian setting?
SC: Well the thing is, the main parts of the plot have not been altered. What we did is we took out all these huge court scenes and political scenes and we just stuck to the action. But people double their roles – for example, everybody who is killed has a counterpart in the magical world. The idea of this constant transformation between the living and the dead is something that we wanted to emphasize.

MD: The play started to take shape in March of 2008. Did the recent earthquake influence the play in any way?
SC: Well, apart from making everybody feel really sad…no. The play had already been slated a year ago to be performed at this time. The timing is kind of weird. Another time I did a play about lying and terrorism and it opened on September 11. What it has done is [create an interest] in Haiti and its culture.

MD: Can you elaborate a little on the role of magic in the play?
SC: The constant tension in the play is how much of this whole story is preordained and how much is free will. This is a question we face as a contemporary audience. [Magic is] still present in the Haitian culture…so certainly by putting it in this context, it’s not so strange, because you know it is actually a vital and living part of that culture. But in the play, the role of magic is tied with nature. And Macbeth, trying to fulfill his destiny, is kind of going against the natural order of things.

MD: How does this play reflect the Other Theatre’s guiding principles?
SC: Our company has always been very interested in how the political and personal kind of merge together in our world, and how conservative movements in politics are reflected in conservative movements in daily interaction. I mean it’s no coincidence that the new age movement was gaining a lot of popularity when there was a huge push toward capitalism because rich people really needed a “religion” to make them feel good about having so much money and not sharing it. And this play fits in with that.

MD: What do you hope audience members come away with after watching the show?
SC: The thing about this production is it’s very dynamic. It’s very visual. The characters are always transforming, and the set is beautiful. We ask really profound questions about what it means to be a human being. And I don’t believe in boring the audience!
—compiled by Madeleine Cummings

The Other Theatre’s Macbeth runs from April 7-28 at the Segal Centre (5170 Côte Ste-Catherine). For more information visit segalcentre.org


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