Mickee Faust Club presents MURDEROUS MOVABLE MACBETH Review: A Site-Specific Shakespearean Romp

Tallahassee’s Mickee Faust Club, headed up by Terry Galloway and Donna Nudd, are known for their bawdy cabaret shows in which they skewer politicians, celebrities, and just about anyone else who takes themselves too seriously. What makes them truly unique, however, is the ragtag little theatre collective they have managed to assemble on a liberal island afloat in a very red state; their troupe consists of an unlikely mix of queer folk, soccer moms, people with disabilities, university professors, and just about any other identity category you can think of (except maybe Republicans). Though sketch comedy is their usual fare, once in a while they take on weightier works, and this year Galloway, whose love of Shakespeare dates back to her youth and her experience with the University of Texas’ Shakespeare at Winedale program, decided to direct Macbeth using an environmental, promenade approach to the classic tragedy.  Christina Rodriguez De Conte is her co-director.

Accommodating Disabled Performers

The play begins outside the theatre, with the famous scene in which the three witches meet to plot the oncoming mischief, and we see the first of a number of gender-bending casting choices, with one of the witches played by an eerie and menacing Jimmers Micallef. Three actors dressed as animals--an owl, a toad, and a cat--add a further touch of the uncanny which, though not appearing in Shakespeare’s play, intersperse their own croaks and hoots and meows with the Bard’s own text. Though the strangeness of the effect needed no further rationale, speaking with Galloway after the show, she clarifies for Picture this Post readers that the toad whose plaintive croaking punctuated the scene was an actress, Rebecca Metcalfe, who, following traumatic brain injury from an auto accident, had trouble memorizing lines. The role was tailored to her needs as a disabled actress, though as a theatre-goer knowing none of her story, the role was memorable even without this context. This a trademark of the Mickee Faust Club, namely their proactive efforts to integrate people with varying disabilities in their shows; this has long been part of Galloway’s mission for the company, who is herself deaf and a prominent figure in the world of disability arts.

The Perils and Pleasures of Outdoor Theatre

Proceeding from these opening scenes, the play, along with the audience, moves into the yard behind the theatre, where a temporary stage has been set up at one end to serve as the castle of King Duncan. At the other end, a cauldron will host the three witches again in later scenes. In the midst of this are a number of round tables to feature more prominently in the intermission. There were thankfully a number of propane heaters interspersed among the tables, as that evening audiences faced one of the perils of site-specific theatre: chilly temperatures. The play moves twice again before intermission, once to a smaller space and then again to the main theatre, a large room ringed around with balconies vaguely reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Globe. It is in this larger space that many of the more memorable moments of the production take place, such as the thunderous knocking at the gate after Duncan’s murder, coming from the huge warehouse doors of the theatre. It is at this point that Galloway herself first appears as the joking Porter, gamboling her way through the audience to the enormous doors.

When the intermission arrives, the audience is escorted back to the yard behind the theatre and the waiting tables. Audiences of prior shows had been met with a feast of traditional Scottish fare while the actors entertained them from the stage. The night this reviewer attended, however, was an extension to the run, and featured lighter victuals: cheeses, bread, cookies, and fruit.

The intermission ends with a disturbing return of the witches, this time accompanied by Hecate, realized by three actors in glittering costumes lit from within by small lights--a tripartite performance as surreal as it sounds.

Inclusive Casting – A Mickee Faust Club Strongpoint

Being comprised primarily of amateur actors, performances from the ensemble varied across a broad range of abilities. Highlights, in this writer’s view,  included Dan Kahn’s brooding and haunted portrayal of Macbeth, whose frustrated and fatalistic tone rang true for the ill-fated monarch. Also noteworthy was Jessica Tice’s swaggering yet somehow maternal portrayal of Banquo, yet another of the show’s gender-bending casting choices. Interestingly, not only was Banquo played by a female performer, but the text was altered to refer to Banquo as “her” rather than keeping the character as a male role played by a female actor. This created a striking matriarchal resonance when the witches, for example, referred to her birthing a long line of kings. It was Rand Metcalfe who got to deliver one of the best (and shortest) lines in the play--“The Queen is dead, my lord”--having rehearsed extensively to speak it clearly, despite challenges with speech caused by living with cerebral palsy.

The Poetics of Gore

Mickee Faust does a great job of embracing the extremes of Shakespeare and always finding the fun in it: high language mixed with low humor, perverse, even melodramatic characters, and giddy, often absurd violence. If gravitas occasionally settles on the stage, you can rest assured that it will soon be banished by an over-the-top death scene complete with spurting fake blood, or a bit of leering innuendo, or a wyrd sister in drag. The violence is so foregrounded in this production that, like in a Tarantino film, the gore itself becomes a sort of character, crossing over from horror and shock back into comedy. Several children, played with aplomb by age-appropriate actors, are gruesomely dispatched at various points over the course of the play. The initial shock gives way to the certainty that these kids enjoyed every moment of dying gruesomely in front of an audience, fake blood and all. During the final battle one of the actors, using a pump somehow rigged to their body, spurts blood from the stage in tiny jets when stabbed. Entrails dangle, severed heads are brandished, throats are cut, while all the while walking a thin line between the gruesome and the ridiculous. As Mickee Faust regulars know, this is a line they have a great deal of experience treading, and audiences are better off for it.

In this writer’s view, the climax of the play, the great battle at Dunsinane, is a beautiful piece of environmental theatre that uses their quirky space, with is multiple levels and various entrances, to full effect. The audience finds themselves quite literally in the midst of battle: combat takes place in the aisles, on the balconies above the seats, and all around. This scene is site specific theatre at its finest: an ephemeral experience emerging out of the unique life of a space, as much a product of that space as of any dramatic text. Murderous Movable Macbeth is what many theatres attempt but few pull off so well: a truly environmental piece which sweeps the audience up and, for a few hours, gives them an experience of not only watching, but of being a part of another world, in this case the world of one of Shakespeare’s most gruesomely memorable plays.

Co-Directors:  Terry Galloway and Christina Rodriguez De Conte


For more information and to keep track of future performances visit the Mickee Faust Club website.

DISCLOSURE: The author of this review has collaborated regularly with the Mickee Faust Club since 2006.

Photos: Andrea Jones

Derek Lee Barton PhD

About the Author:

Derek Barton is a performance artist, educator, and director of both film and stage productions. A graduate of Northwestern's Performance Studies doctoral program, his
work explores issues of sustainability, social justice, and artistic
intervention in public space.
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