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Macbeth - The Ex-Communicator

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December 12th, 2010


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11:38 pm - Macbeth
I just saw Patrick Stewart as Macbeth on BBC4. I came online to urge you to watch it on the BBC website, but it doesn't seem to be available. I almost missed it myself. 7.30 on a Sunday evening? I only just got back from walking in the Peaks, and flicked the telly on and it was just starting.
Shot on location in the mysterious underground world of Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire, the film is set in an undefined and threatening central European world. Immediate and visceral, this is a contemporary presentation of Shakespeare's intense, claustrophobic and bloody drama. Patrick Stewart won Best Actor and Rupert Goold Best Director in the Evening Standard Theatre Awards for the stage production and both Stewart and Fleetwood were nominated for Tony Awards for their performances.

I thought it was really frightening. The most horror-like Macbeth I have ever seen. Very scary and oppressive. This horrible insane fascist curse. Recommended if you get the chance to see it.

I was talking to my sister about Shakespeare today. We know several people who have learning disabilities, who really enjoy Shakespeare. My nephew went to see John Simm's Hamlet with me, and he loved it. One of my sister's friends has a son with Downs who went to see the Tennant Hamlet, and apparently he loved it as much as I did.

So I think virtually any person could enjoy Shakespeare, and poetry in general, if there wasn't such an oppressive expectation that it's worthy, or almost a test, no wonder people hate that. I think people with learning disability could be more free than most to relax and enjoy the play, because they aren't as oppressed by other people's expectations. I know learning disability is a very broad category, but I think you know what I am saying.

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Comments:


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From:storme
Date:December 12th, 2010 11:45 pm (UTC)
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It was fabulous, wasn't it? The Lady Macbeth was particularly good I thought, and Patrick Stewart always thrills me in Shakespearian roles.
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From:communicator
Date:December 13th, 2010 12:02 am (UTC)
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I got a stronger impression than I have had before that Lady Macbeth was quite mad even before the whole thing started. And a real feeling of evil from Macbeth. Nightmarish.
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From:storme
Date:December 13th, 2010 12:05 am (UTC)
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Hmm, I got more a sense that he was morally weak (though not necessarily evil) to begin with but after being spurred on by the witches and by her that he took the mantle of evilness on wholeheartedly.

But yes, she came across as fairly deranged from the very first appearance. But in a *fascinating* way.
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From:communicator
Date:December 13th, 2010 12:09 am (UTC)
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Yes, evil at the end, you are right he was just weak at the start.
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From:obsessive24
Date:December 13th, 2010 01:48 am (UTC)
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This sounds absolutely brilliant. I hope it's available for download somewhere.
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From:communicator
Date:December 13th, 2010 08:42 am (UTC)
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The location is great, this horrible underground bunker, and the witches are ghastly bad nurses with big injection needles.
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From:squonkfan
Date:December 13th, 2010 02:04 am (UTC)
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I think people with learning disability could be more free than most to relax and enjoy the play, because they aren't as oppressed by other people's expectations.

Hmm. What makes you say that?
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From:communicator
Date:December 13th, 2010 08:35 am (UTC)
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I may be wrong, and I think I am skirting close to making stupid generalisations about a diverse collection of individuals. I am trying to think hard about what I was trying to say.

I think people in the arts can be generous and welcoming to people with learning disabilities, and sometimes not so welcoming to other people. And I think some of the 'this is too good/ too hard for you' messaging comes in the written word, or in mainstream education, that a person with limited literacy might not be so exposed to.
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From:happytune
Date:December 13th, 2010 04:58 pm (UTC)
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I don't think it is always inherently the art form (of whatever sort) that sends the 'too good/too hard' message. It is the structures, presentation and/or people around it. Of course I can think of a number of musical examples that are excluding, but tbh I feel the 'too good for you' message coming from quite a lot of popular cultural stuff. I feel a bit like being in high school when I try to engage with stuff like Big Brother - the message is 'you're too geeky/weird/boring'. Perhaps there's something to be said about the reciprocal nature of what happens when people enjoy or simply consume art; we bring stuff to it, inevitably.

The Macbeth is on the iPlayer - worth every bloody penny of the license fee!
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From:communicator
Date:December 13th, 2010 05:20 pm (UTC)
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Yes, pop culture can be excluding, for instance showing arty people as wankers :-)

Oh, thank you for the information about Macbeth, I have posted that now.
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From:squonkfan
Date:December 15th, 2010 03:19 am (UTC)
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I think your instinct about overgeneralizing may have been the right one, though. :) I'd say, as you did allude to, that there are myriad types of learning disabilities, some of which may involve other cognitive issues and most if not all of which affect each individual slightly differently. I'd also suggest that people with disabilities, learning or otherwise, continually receive both textual and subtextual messages from all kinds of media and persons that they shouldn't attempt X thing because it would be too challenging or somehow just not enjoyable for them--challenging/not enjoyable according to what a non-disabled person assumes about their lived experience.

And then by the same token, assumptions are continually being made about the likes and dislikes of PWD in general. It feels akin to a white person saying something like, "Oh, people of color would enjoy/not enjoy that kind of movie." Or (because those race-ability analogies always make me feel a little squicky) a sighted person saying, "Blind people would likely not enjoy a baseball game/would enjoy a music concert." I think the only way to know if/how a person with a disability enjoys something is to ask him or her; beyond that, you'd need to do a more formal, community-wide survey, like you would to discover the likes or dislikes of any population.
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From:communicator
Date:December 15th, 2010 08:16 am (UTC)
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OK, well i take on board what you say
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From:kalypso_v
Date:December 13th, 2010 03:13 am (UTC)
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I remember we took my father to a production of Gorky's The Lower Depths after he had Alzheimer's, and he seemed to enjoy that; it was very dramatic, with characters throwing each other to the floor, and he obviously responded to that, whether he grasped the plot or not.
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From:communicator
Date:December 13th, 2010 08:37 am (UTC)
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Yes, my nephew loves to see fighting on stage. H used to do mock-fighting with him. One time he introduced H to my grandma, delightedly saying 'He punches me!'
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From:kalypso_v
Date:December 18th, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
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Having caught up with Macbeth, I'm afraid my dominant thought is I want Lady Macbeth's hat!
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From:gair
Date:December 13th, 2010 11:34 am (UTC)
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because they aren't as oppressed by other people's expectations.

There's a bit in Helen Garner's book Cosmo Cosmolino where a working-class guy is looking at a sculpture that one of his housemates has made, and it says... oh, I wish I had it here. It says something like 'the idea of himself LOOKING AT ART came down between him and the sculpture, so that he couldn't see it at all'. Which is certainly something that happens a lot with Shakespeare, I think.
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From:communicator
Date:December 13th, 2010 11:42 am (UTC)
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Yes. Absolutely that was what I meant, but blunderingly. I feel it strongly because it wasn't until I was in my forties that the idea of 'myself listening to classical music' lifted enough for me to actually hear it. Forty wasted years.
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From:happytune
Date:December 13th, 2010 05:02 pm (UTC)
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Or Leonard Bast in Howards End. I always think that description of him after he visits the Schlegels after Helen walks off with his brolly is one of the most damning sets of words I know.
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From:communicator
Date:December 13th, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC)
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I always remember the heart-wrenching performance by Timothy West
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From:happytune
Date:December 13th, 2010 05:41 pm (UTC)
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Is that on the Merchant Ivory film? I've never seen that - didn't want to ruin one of my fave books!
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From:communicator
Date:December 13th, 2010 05:42 pm (UTC)
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I think it is. I've seen it in something.
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From:tehomet
Date:December 16th, 2010 12:07 am (UTC)
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I know learning disability is a very broad category, but I think you know what I am saying.

Yup.

I was sorry to miss Patrick Stewart as MacBeth. I'm hoping for a re-run at some point.
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From:communicator
Date:December 17th, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
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Can you read it online at the link here? Not sure if it works out of the UK

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00wnstq/Macbeth/

I have been thinking about how I phrased it before and I think I said it wrong. I guess a better framing would be that learning ability isn't an insuperable barrier to enjoying Shakespeare, because people at all levels do in fact enjoy the plays. I wish I'd said it like that first off.
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From:tehomet
Date:December 18th, 2010 12:35 am (UTC)
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Thanks very much for the thoughtfully provided link, but BBC iPlayer doesn't work outside England/Scotland/Wales. (I think the pay version coming soon will, though.)

I knew what you meant! :D

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