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Bloody, bold and resolute

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Portfringe presents Pop-Up Macbeth

PORTLAND – Something wicked just popped up in Portland.

PortFringe, Portland’s fringe theatre festival, brought William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth” to life in a most unique fashion this weekend, with 14 individuals or groups each contributing a piece to a weird, wild whole. 

This was the group’s second foray into the realm of Pop-Up Shakespeare following last year’s successful Pop-Up Hamlet.

The play was broken up into 14 two-scene pieces. Those pieces were then distributed to the 14 sets of performers who were to put together their own take on the material they received. The rules – such as they were – were simple:

  1.     Each piece had to include at least one line of original text
  2.     No piece was to exceed 10 minutes in length.
  3.     Tell the story.

Other than that, carte blanche was given. Performers could – and did – do whatever they wanted.

Pop-Up Macbeth kicked off with performances as part of the First Friday Art Walk. Performers were scattered to various venues so that they might perform their individual pieces for art walkers. This was followed by two performances on Saturday – one at 2 p.m. and the other at 7 p.m. - at Oxbow Blending and Bottling, where all 14 pieces were presented in chronological order and these many interpretations of the Scottish play came together into one.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I myself participated in Pop-Up Macbeth. I took part in last year’s festivities and had such a delightful time that I threw my hat into the ring yet again. I had the first two scenes of the final act and offered up a weirdo scenic breakdown involving a conspiracy theory that revolved around the Knights Templar, the Merovingian dynasty and the druidic pagan tradition. Is there any doubt as to why I love this event so much and will continue doing it as long as they’ll have me?)

The groups involved were vast and varied. Plenty of members of Portland’s considerable theatre community were on hand, but there were also some outliers; the Froward Dewberry Mammets – a group of kids who put their story in a school setting - spring to mind.

As for highlights, well … they all had highlights.

Take the first scene from Walks into a Bard; a group made up of Edward de Vere, Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon and Shakespeare himself form a writers’ room to come up with their newest play. Or the channel-flipping pop culture appropriation of Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Theatre Company – no matter what show you watch, it winds up being Macbeth. There was a Durangian take from Pie Man Theatre Company and a riff on Pee Wee Herman from Bad Dog Productions and a hilarious paranormal lecture from Finyette Productions.

From relatively loyal interpretations courtesy of Eric Darrow Worthley or Mad Horse Theatre Company to out-there edginess from 60 Grit Theatre Company and Bare Portland to the work put forth by Inventing Trees and Pop Killed Culture and 90 Acre Theatre Company … everybody took the material and made it their own.

Assembling such a wide-ranging group of performers and helping them combine their creative impulses to bring forth such a compelling and utterly unique piece of theatre is no easy task, but the PortFringe powers that be made a tough job look simple. It was yet another incredible success; I consider it my privilege to have been allowed to participate. Each and every one of the participants should be celebrated for the passion and talent they brought to the stage.

“What’s done is done.” (Macbeth; Act III, scene ii)

Last modified on Tuesday, 14 March 2017 15:06


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