‘Macbeth’ Review: Shakespeare, Featuring Your Imagination | Arts


The audio drama adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” by The Psych Drama Company captivates audiences in – to use the show’s words – “in one fell swoop.” In this reimagined version of tragedy, starring Harvard alumna Lindsay T. McAuliffe ’20 as a witch, director Wendy Lippe immerses listeners into the world of these well-known characters through an auditory experience. As an easily accessible yet enchanting experience, this chilling 90-minute adaptation epitomizes the appeal of audio dramas in that it is an easily accessible, low-pressure enchanting experience available to stream online from 10 September to October 22.

“Macbeth” is basically a story of ambition and paranoia, feelings immediately conveyed by the original music and soundscape of composer Zarko Dragojevic. The background music is full of suspense and violin when tensions rise, and raspy and rich during war and death. As audiences follow the trials and tribulations of Mark Prokes’ Macbeth, a Scottish general who will do anything to be king, the music guides our interpretation of his longing and guilt.

Even beyond music, sound is not only the means by which listeners hear the story, but also a key factor in their emotional experience. Macbeth’s paranoia in Act III, for example, results in irregular sounds that annoy listeners, as if warning of impending danger. The aural experience also allows for a fascinating dramatization of the play’s witches, two of which are voiced by McAuliffe. The wide range of their voices – one speaking in a higher register and the other in a baby voice – magnifies the chaotic nature of the group. Complemented by the often-used echoes on their voices and the show’s vivid soundscape, these witches, who have been reimagined countless times over the play’s long history, terrify once again in the production of the psychedelic drama.

The real magic of the show, however, is how these sounds stimulate the audience’s imaginations. When the witches speak to Macbeth in Act I, for example, an echo effect is associated with their layered voices, making listeners feel like they are surrounded by them. Their whispers are persistent, mimicking Macbeth’s inner turmoil. This organized acoustic environment gives the audience the context they need to imagine the scenes in the way that suits them. Yet the plot alone is dramatic and entertaining, with each character’s distinct voices playing out as they progress.

The medium was certainly well used by the actors, who convincingly portrayed their roles without the aid of physics. Wendy Lippe’s Lady Macbeth has a sweet, demanding voice that evokes a character who cannot be trusted to resist the temptation of power, and who will resort to violence to obtain it. Brian Dion’s Macduff has a gruff voice that implies his superiority over the doomed Macbeth, describing him as being both more powerful and righteous than Mark Prokes’ villain.

Listeners can expect the lack of visuals in “Macbeth” to be a hindrance, but it amplifies the effects of sound in a way that the characters cannot see on stage (separated from the audience). Instead, the drama’s intermission, a virtual art gallery of Nick Morse’s pieces, provides a visual experience. Morse’s colorful and emotional art encourages deliberation on the themes of human fallibility conveyed in the show. “Macbeth” puts audience members in the characters’ heads, allowing them to empathize while giving them power over how to imagine the narrative. This fits with the psychological framework of The Psych Drama Company, which aims to use theater to explore the human psyche and encourage thinking. This auditory production is a reminder that all listeners need a headset and an imagination to experience a moving production.

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