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The Student News Site of Piscataway High School

The Chieftain

The Student News Site of Piscataway High School

The Chieftain

Review: PHS Drama Club’s Ambitious ‘MacBeth’ is a Brutal Masterpiece

Strong acting and incredible costuming make this a show that viewers will remember for a long time


Early on in Shakespeare’s violent play, Macbeth, Macbeth states, “I have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people.” This quote foreshadows that Macbeth will eventually try (and fail) to use his wealth to purchase the adoration of his subjects.  However unlike MacBeth, the PHS drama club didn’t need to buy any golden opinions for their rendition of  Macbeth, which was very different from most interpretations of Shakespearean work, in the best of ways. The play was as emotional as it was violent, telling the story of MacBeth utilizing every aspect of theater. Each part of the drama club worked together to make Macbeth one of the most intense and greatest works the drama club has produced in recent years.



MacBeth is a classical Shakespearean tale, originally written for the king of England, and is one of his most popular works due to its themes about greed and the evil within humanity.  However, the “Bard’s”  plays are rarely produced in high school, due to the complexity of putting on a performance that requires actors to memorize and recite thousands of lines in “Shakespearean” English.

The story begins with the end of a violent war in Scotland. However, all ideas of peace are quickly shattered by temptations of power; it turns out that greed is the deadliest weapon used in the play, as it drives several characters to commit great crimes for their own self interests. Betrayal of even the closest of friends is easy if power is promised in return. This is a fact the play loves to reinforce, as the trust between the characters waiver when the temptation of power is introduced. This play tells the story of how even the noblest of heroes can become the most ruthless of tyrants.



However, to say that this was a standard production of MacBeth would be doing a disservice to all the work the club did to differentiate their play from others. For starters, the time period of the play was altered. While most Macbeth depictions take place around the 12th century, the drama club’s performance took place during the heart of the Viking Age, predating most interpretations by about a few hundred years. This radically changed the look and the feel of the play with most of the cast wearing Viking or Viking adjacent attire and their make up mimicking traditional Viking tattoos perfectly. However, the biggest change it had was the effect on the battles within the play.



The brutality of the play was not by any means a bad thing. In fact, it improved the overall quality of the work. Each fight scene was excellently choreographed, and the cast overall embraced the barbarity of their actions. Each swing of the sword was immediately followed by a blood curdling scream. When MacBeth fought MacDuff, the only words said were that of shouts and grunts, yet their faces were contorted with a nearly primal expression. Fights often erupted in the isles between rows of seats and were drawn out to the point where you felt uncomfortable in the best of ways. The barbarity of the play wasn’t for show; it reminded the audience just how heinous the effects of MacBeth’s actions really were, with the violence acting as if it were a character of its own.



However, the incredible violence and dark themes might be off putting for many people. This play is even more brutal than most showings of MacBeth, and while I did find the grueling fight scenes the peak of the show, I understand that it can be difficult for many to watch.



The fact that the actors used Shakespeare’s actual lines was one of the most impressive parts of the play; however, some lines were difficult to comprehend due to the age and complexity of the language. You could gain a sense of what was occurring based on other cues like the tone of the speaker or the body language shown, but I couldn’t help feeling  that I was missing out on some important plot points in some scenes, even though I’d already seen MacBeth before just a few months ago.  This, of course, is the nature of the beast that is Shakespeare, and is an unfortunate symptom to performing one of his works. That said, all the actors did a wonderful job staying in character and memorizing the difficult Shakespearean lines.



The lighting and sound designed from the crew amplified the play in the best of ways. The background colors constantly changed depending on the mood at that moment in the story. With light ranging from a depressing blue to a demonic red, the crew did just as well of a job at portraying MacBeth as the actor for Macbeth himself.



The choreography, from fight scenes to dances to even background characters talking was excellently done. It made the world of MacBeth something that existed independently, outside of just being the setting for MacBeth’s story. The cast all moved together to the point where even the actors turning their heads was synchronized. It really kept the experience immersive throughout the whole play.



And the play itself would be nothing without the work of the main cast. MacBeth, Lady MacBeth, and Banquo were all the primary characters, and each of their actors really gave it their all with their performances. At certain parts I forgot that the people acting weren’t professionals, though I think they do more than qualify. However the breakout role was certainly MacDuff, who did a better job portraying the deep sorrow of MacDuff than even the previous professional actor that the juniors saw play MacDuff last year. I was blown away by everyone’s role in the play, as the casting for even minor characters seemed perfect — for example, the porter did an great job of providing a bit of humor during one of the darkest moments of the play.


While it was challenging to understand every single word of the play, it didn’t even come close to hampering the overall performance. Each member of the drama club, from cast to crew to hair and make-up to directors to stage hands, all went above and beyond to create something that was more than just the sum of its parts, producing, in my opinion, one of the greatest plays in Piscataway High School history.


Arjun Koura
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About the Contributor
Arjun Koura
Arjun Koura, Staff Reporter
I'm a senior and this is my first year at PHS. I enjoy traveling and reading.

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