Carlton students in final rehearsals for Macbeth

Matt Gardner
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Shakespeare’s classic tale of tragic ambition hits the Prince Albert stage next week in a new production by local drama students.

Explaining the selection of Macbeth as their play of choice, Carlton Comprehensive Public High School drama teacher David Zulkoskey pointed to the sheer level of talent in this year’s Drama 30 class.

“I have a particularly strong Drama 30 class, and in fact, it is so strong that we’ve done a lot of very different improvisational activities this year,” Zulkoskey said.

“This play just seems to speak (with) volumes of action and complex characters, and this class is perfectly suited for it.”

The students’ performance of Macbeth will take place this Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the drama room at Carlton, which is accessible through the front door. Admission is $5 at the door.

While the play retains Shakespeare’s original language, the setting has been updated to the period following the Second World War in Europe.

“We sort of set the play in about the late 1940s … The goal was to focus on the characters, but to change the milieu if you like, the background of the story,” Zulkoskey said.

The choice of time period arose out of a desire to depict a country in turmoil, with the pressure of Great Britain’s rule in Scotland reflecting Macbeth’s own desire for independence.

The final product, however, also incorporates elements from different time periods, creating a surrealistic aura.

“We were going to do it in a kind of steampunk theme … and then we moved to more of a 1940s style,” actor Fiona Loseth said.

“Everyone’s going to just be dressed in black, so it doesn’t really have like a set era for costumes,” she added. “And our set that we designed and built is more in a steampunk theme … There are pipes and there are gears. So it’s kind of a mix.”

The use of black costumes for many of the actors is in part a visual expression of the play’s sombre themes, as well as a means of helping the audience focus on the actors’ words rather than their costumes.

Loseth, a veteran of four plays with the Mad Hatter Theatre Company, performs the role of Lady Macbeth.

Describing her interpretation of the character, Loseth noted, “She’s a very powerful authoritative character, especially at the beginning, and then as the play moves on and she convinces her husband of murdering and stuff, she begins to kind of question everything and then she starts to kind of unravel mentally.”

The actor’s physical mannerisms onstage reflect her character’s descent into madness.

“I try to stand and look like I have a lot more power, especially when I’m talking to (Macbeth),” Loseth said. “I’ll use body language to kind of try to control him and then towards the end, I try to make it look like I’m a little bit more insecure and faltering.”

This play just seems to speak (with) volumes of action and complex characters, and this class is perfectly suited for it. David Zulkoskey

Playing the titular role of Macbeth is 18-year-old Lukas McConechy, who previously acted in two regional performances and is now embarking on his first in-class production.

Explaining his take on the character, McConechy noted, “Really, he’s a normal guy and he gets told that he’s going to come into power, and then basically ambition just overtakes his life and he ends up going down a dark path and killing to get where he needs to go.”

That vaulting ambition eventually leads Macbeth into conflict with Macduff, the Thane of Fife portrayed by student Brody Brown.

“I’m basically the king’s right hand man, more or less there,” Brown said. “I serve him. Everything that I do is for him.”

The murder of King Duncan sets in motion Macduff’s quest to find the killer.

“We’re trying to figure out who it is, and as the plot unfolds then we figure out who it is and then I have to go and kill him,” Brown said.

In visualizing their concept of the play, the students drew inspiration from a 2010 television adaptation starring Patrick Stewart as Macbeth.

Their own version, however, is more streamlined.

“People coming to see this will see a condensed version of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth,” Zulkoskey noted.

“It has a running time of about an hour. The play that we did is a cutting. It’s not the full play, but you certainly get aspects of the entire play. It’s just that a lot of the scenes have been condensed.”

On-and-off rehearsals lasting three months have proved a learning experience for the students

“We’ve been working hard together,” McConechy said. “It’s a very different role. It’s tough doing, especially, a play in Shakespearean language -- something that none of us have really done before.

“So it’s a totally new challenge, but we’ve done a good job. It’s been a really great opportunity and it’s been a great time.”

Brown described the experience as “life-changing,” noting that while he is a naturally quiet person, the drama class has helped bring out another side of him.

Zulkoskey encouraged members of the public to come out on Tuesday for “a nice evening of Shakespearean theatre.”

“These characters are full of energy,” he said. “These actors have got so much energy, and I think it’s the perfect way for them to bring to a close their Grade 12 year.”

Organizations: Carlton Comprehensive Public High School, Mad Hatter Theatre Company, Shakespearean theatre

Geographic location: Europe, Great Britain, Scotland

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