Monday, May 16, 2011

Macbeth, Directed by Teller (of "Penn and Teller" Fame)

Macbeth. Dir. Aaron Posner and Teller. Perf. Ian Merrill Peakes. 2009. DVD. Folger Shakespeare Library, 2009.

Having started a Macbeth trend on Bardfilm, I find it difficult to stop, particularly as I have a backlog of Macbeth material almost as large as Birnam Forest.

The dagger speech proves particularly interesting in each new production of Macbeth I encounter. It can be the key to so much of the rest of the production. It can speak to Macbeth's resolve (or the lack thereof), Lady Macbeth's control over Macbeth (or the lack thereof), the production's use of special effects (or the lack thereof), and the skill (or the lack thereof) of the actor playing Macbeth.

One of the Folger Shakespeare Library editions of the text of the play comes with a DVD of the play as directed by Teller. Yes, Teller—of Penn and Teller fame. Teller is the part of the comic duo of magicians who virtually never speaks during their routines.

I don't know whether this special effect is a Pepper's Ghost trick or not—I'm really not qualified to tell a Pepper's Ghost from a Salt's Dik-dik—but the effect is striking. Macbeth, having looked himself over in a huge mirror, sits with his back to it. Soon, a dagger appears in the mirror—but not in the reality the mirror supposedly reflects:

The film is full of interesting and entertaining tricks like that. On the whole, it's a good, solid, dependable production that is quite useful for classroom discussion.

By the way, my copy of the DVD automatically includes Teller's director's commentary, and I'm always sure to turn that off before watching the play.

Links: The Film at IMDB.


CRS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Duane Morin said...

"Teller is the part of the comic duo of magicians who virtually never speaks during their routines."

"includes Teller's director's commentary, and I'm always sure to turn that off "

That's the joke, of course. Even with it on, you still don't hear anything. :)

(Actually that is not true, I just had to say it.)

Teller is actually quite the scholar, not a lot of people realize that. During the production of this show, his partner Penn had a radio show where he gave regular updates. They even kept a blog:

CRS said...

Magic and Shakespeare! Glad you mentioned this one!

One of my treasures is a copy of that publication, signed by Teller.

When everyone else in the room was asking him to sign playing cards and old Playbills, I asked him to sign Macbeth. He seemed thrilled and spoke with me about the production for some time.

That was several years ago. Then last week I was asked to perform for the Society of American Magicians. Figuring everyone else on the bill would do card tricks, I chose to perform the dagger speech with a bit of magic thrown in. The dagger disappeared and reappeared, was suddenly covered with blood and then clean again, etc.

It was a bit of a literal take on the speech; but I was performing for magic geeks, not Shakespeare ones.

It went over quite well, and I'd love to find more ways to blend my two favorite corners of the theatre. Any ideas for other speeches that would go well with some sleight of hand?

kj said...

I'm glad that careful readers of Bardfilm are rewarded with nifty little inside jokes like the "Teller's Director's Commentary" one. Bravo, Shakespeare Geek, for being the first to point it out!

The question about slight-of-hand is interesting, CRS. The first thought that springs to mind is Mark Antony's "Lend me your ears"--perhaps because magicians tend to find coins in people's ears. But "O, for a muse of fire" has a large range of magical possibilities. And, of course, Prospero might provide a bit of food for magical thought!

Any other suggestions?


Hannah said...

My son and I were lucky enough to see this production live. I was sitting on the aisle and periodically creepy people would slither and grab as they walked the center aisle. Yeeks.

We went with a bunch of homeschoolers to a school matinee. The actors came out after the show--and they joked (?) that all of Teller's direction was more or less mouthed to them face-to-face.

BTW, the Folger edition with the DVD was one of my son's birthday presents when he recently turned 12. Never heard so many squeals.

Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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