by Alistair Maxwell
About nine people are murdered in Macbeth, and that’s just onstage. The body count debatably doubles once those who are “unseamed from the naves to the chaps” and those who die “by self and violent hands” are tallied up. Therefore, it’s quite a surprise that La Fille du Laitier’s travelling hit Macbeth Muet (That’s “mute” in French Canadian) manages to be so effectively bloody, gory, repellent, and lewd despite only having a cast of two.
That’s not to say that this minimal two-hander that makes Titus Andronicus look like A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an exploitative gore-fest, it is only rated 14+. In fact, the most controversial aspect would undoubtedly be the choice to discard the text entirely and perform the text as a series of puppet vignettes. Far from being Shakespeare for the attention-deficit TikTok generation, this production chooses depth over length. The murder of Lady MacDuff has far more in common with Cyprus Avenue than any Vine.
Jérémie Francoeur plays Macbeth and Clara Prévost Lady Macbeth. Banquo is played by a paper plate, King Duncan by a large playing card and MacDuff by an XL football glove. The rest of the cast is cobbled together through an ingenious use of paper cups, blood packs and little card fortune tellers. By reducing the key players to simple, sympathetic objects the two puppet/performers then animate the humanity into them. Macbeth spilling litres of blood on the field of his final battle is visually arresting but murdering Lady MacDuff (an oven mitt fitted into this part like a glove), by bashing her on a table a dozen times was truly shocking.
Running at sixty minutes Macbeth Muet rattles through the play, each scene is ended with a reception-desk bell ding so sudden that at times it feels as if the Macbeths have no agency and are being dragged against their will through the play. This could have been a clever idea if it tied into questions of fate, or the power of the Witches but more often the ding is annoying and begins to sound like the entire audience are getting group chat notifications every 15 seconds. The other major defect in the production is the occasional lapse into lewd humour, it’s certainly one of the funniest Macbeth productions however certain rude jokes designed to be the set-up to a devastating dramatic moment aren’t funny enough to justify themselves. If you’re going to weave a series of funny sex mimes between the rightly uncomfortable prologue regarding Lady Macbeth’s long history of miscarriages, then they’d better be hysterical sex mimes. Otherwise the brilliantly acted and puppeted tragedies seem more glib than shocking.
A vague knowledge of the text would no doubt help an audience member but the sheer visual spectacle and dynamism of the story are enough to entertain. It would help to know that the candelabras are in fact an army dressed as trees but a Masters in Drama isn’t required to enjoy the bloody murder of a playing card or the adorable “Just the Two of Us” Banquo & son sequence. It’s a radical, fun adaptation that treasures the depths of the original text as well as adding a surprising amount of innovative laughs and unfathomable blood.
This publication is written in the context of the project "European Contemporary Puppetry Critical Platform"