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Shakesperean ambition and bloodshed bathe The Congo in ‘Macbeth’

Thursday 05th, January 2017 / 11:10
By Jennie Orton

Photo: Nicky Newman

VANCOUVER — On the side of the planet where Donald Trump is the worst kind of apocalypse that any of us can imagine, the last 20 years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would rock our foundation to rubble. There have been more deaths in the eastern DRC than in any conflict since World War II, a fact that many of us are blissfully unaware of. This is where director Brett Bailey and Third World Bunfight come in with their adaptation of the Verdi opera performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The atmosphere of greed and power in the Congo pairs well with the tragic and violent tale of The King of Scots and his bloodily paranoid rise and fall. Actress and singer Nobulumko Mngxekeza who takes on the role of the insidiously ambitious Lady Macbeth, describes the adaptation as a much needed look into an invisible plight.

“We see how people that don’t do as they are told get to be dealt with in a blink of an eye and how a person you think you know and trust can just turn their back on you and want you dead to fulfill their needs,” she says. “This adaptation is living a life that was lived by another person, feeling the pain they go through and went through. I could also say one of the benefits for all of us, as the artists and the audience, is that we are teaching each other about the things that we were not aware of before.”

The opera, though performed in its original Italian, is steeped in African culture and truth. The act of sharing poetry while shining a light on a desperate situation is a challenge that Mngxekeza feels strongly about.

“It is also important for those people who have experienced and fled countries and conflict areas — and who might have an opportunity to see us perform — to know that we are not trying to open old wounds.”

“Our version of Macbeth sends a message and tells a story of those who can’t tell it themselves.”

Macbeth runs at Vancouver Playhouse January 16 – 21 as part of PuSh Festival 2017.

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