'Macbeth' back in PE

Arts Correspondent BOOKINGS have opened for Macbeth, Shakespeare's classic tale of ambition, murder and intrigue, to be staged at The Little Theatre in Port Elizabeth from February 26 to March 8 and with the patrons' gala scheduled for February 25. The play has always been a popular set-work for schools and those who studied it will likely never forget quotations like "Something wicked this way comes"; "Is this a dagger which I see before me?" and – of course – "Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble!" And, as every thespian well knows, no one should ever utter the title of the play while it is in production or in the theatre. "The Scottish Play" is the preferred reference, for if you make the error of saying "Macbeth", dread and fear are said to result amongst your fellow actors and you will then be made to leave the theatre, turn around three times, spit, curse and knock on the door to return, having hopefully dispelled the curse. This superstition has many derivatives, the most recognised of these being that the words used by the witches in the play are believed to be original incantations – and that a coven put a curse on the production from its first staging for revealing their secrets. Many productions of Macbeth have, indeed, been plagued by accidents, deaths and misfortune. This has even stood true for the Port Elizabeth Shakespearean Festival (PESF) productions, with a broken leg, seeping wounds, laryngitis, an accident which saw the stage manager end up in hospital in Graaff-Reinet on the touring production, a tummy bug which hit the cast and even a locust plague invasion, according to insiders. But "the show must go on" was the adopted slogan and so it always has. It's been a case of so far, so good for this year's production which will see award-winning actor Gareth Bain in the title role. The production is directed by Lesley Barnard, straight from her success of Calendar Girls, which was staged last year. Barnard has decided on a traditional version of the Scottish play and will introduce Scottish pipers to herald the activity. Patrick Scott, who has long been associated with PESF productions, will play the bagpipes, along with his wife, Bev. Opposite Bain, as Lady Macbeth, is another award-winning actress, Helen Flax, well known for both PESF and Pemads productions. Other cast-members include lauded thespians Andrew White, Robert van den Ordel, Liz Yates, Mark and Yolande Farrow and David Roll. The production marks the second year of a PESF/Pemads alliance for the city's annual Shakespeare production, with Hamlet having been staged at The Little Theatre last year, as its traditional home at the Mannville open-air theatre in St George's Park will only reopen next year. Tickets are at Computicket and for school block bookings contact Helen Wilkins on (041) 581-1738 or helebel@telkomsa.net. The show will be staged nightly at 7.30pm, with no show on March 1, but a 2.30pm matinee on March 2.