It is like the Bewitched version of the “Scottish Play.” Two identifiably different actors will play the murderous general, due to complicated circumstances. It is all part of the backstage drama brought to the fore in Nadine M. Patterson’s meta-postmodern-experimental-musical-docudrama Tango Macbeth (trailer here), which screens during the 2012 AfricanDiaspora International Film Festival in New York.
Unconventional in many ways, this Macbeth will be choreographed. Yes, there will be tango, as well as some vaguely Fosse-esque steps, but that is the least of Patterson’s gamesmanship. While the play itself is shot in stylized music video-style black-and-white, the ostensive behind-the-scenes rehearsal will be filmed in Wiseman-like color. There will be nearly as much fireworks going on amidst the cast and crew as in the presumptive play within the film.
Hopefully, it is all a bit of meta-meta fun, or else Macbeth #1 will be in for some indigestion when he finally screens Tango. Yet, the Shakespeare is still in there and the cast is often quite good bringing out the flavor and dynamics of Shakespeare’s most perilous tragedy. In fact, Brian Anthony Wilson is absolutely fantastic as Macduff (and himself as Macduff), blowing the doors off the Thane of Fife’s big scenes. Based on his work in Tango, most viewers will probably be up for watching him tackle the title role in a more traditional production.
Alexandra Bailey also has some powerful scenes as Lady Macbeth, apparently developing some nice chemistry with both Macbeths. If Carlo Campbell, Macbeth #1, always appears in character[s], than it is a really fearless performance. Ironically though, Eric Suter’s best scene comes not as Macbeth #2, but when he was still a swing player, appearing as Lady Macbeth’s assassin.
It might seem hypocritical to criticize Anna Karenina for Joe Wright’s stylistic excesses, but praise Patterson’s explicitly avant-garde approach. Yet, they are coming from two very different places. While Wright is just tossing in a distracting bit of hipster pretension, Patterson is fundamentally deconstructing both Shakespeare and traditional notions of stage drama.