Illusion a ‘powerful’ tool

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New Zealand stage and screen actor Mike Edward, playing the lead role of Macbeth in Shakespeare's in the Park production next week. Photo: Supplied

Macbeth will not be a typical Shakespearean play.

Produced by Great South and presented by the Shakespeare in the Park Charitable Trust, Great South’s creative projects manager Angela Newell said it would be set in a dystopian world, “where people had to adapt to survive”.

“Anything of use will be used to survive.”

Transforming a stage into an imaginary world was a craft. “Illusion is powerful,” Newell said.

“But the audience will only suspend belief so far… it has to be authentic.

“You can’t have a bunch of clansmen without weapons… it’s about layering the story for the audience.”

To help create the atmosphere, props and sets, special effects and weapons creator David Pottinger has been busy creating an arsenal of weapons.

Throughout more than four decades of theatre, Pottinger has been involved, either on stage, creating set and props, or in the background, including Much Ado About Nothing Shakespeare in the Dark and Taming of the Shrew

He hit the stage in Hamlet in 1979, even possibly before that, he said.

“Whenever Angela needs a grumpy old duke, I am the one,” he said.

As well as acting, Pottinger is also well-known in repertory, musical theatre and high school productions for his talents.

“I have been making props for repertory and Johnathon Tucker since 1974.”

Previously he has made items for former versions of Macbeth, including the half beautiful/half ugly witches and their smoking cauldron in Shakespeare in the Dark, so it was only natural he would be asked to produce an array of weaponry for a post-apocalyptic Macbeth

“Ange’s vision was to recycle,” he said.

“What weapons can you make without guns… in a modern concept to make them safe,” was Newell’s brief.

Inspiration for this production came from the TV show “The Walking Dead, but without the zombies”, Newell said.

Society had degenerated and become tribal, which Macbethwas all about… tribes and clans, Newell said.

“Life is very precious in an insecure world and it’s kinda unpredictable… people have to make use of the stuff that’s available.

“A play over 400 years old can still be a warning of what could happen.”

Set in a Mad Max-type world, don’t expect dullish, plastic-type swords, Pottinger said.

“These are realistic, with some swords made out of aluminium, but they are not sharp,” he said.

“They have to look right and make the right sound.” Some weaponry was made out of foam, with car parts and other “found objects” added to create the illusion of a dystopian world.

Add in the choreographed moves, fight sequences and stunts, especially from Auckland-based veteran actor Mike Edward who will play the lead role of Macbeth

“It is great having Mike here… lifting the cast’s energy.”

As there would be violence and blood, to help “deconstruct” this, parents and caregivers were invited to bring their children backstage to look at how the fake blood and weapons would be used to help them understand the “make-believe” elements of theatre, Newell said.

“There will be a backstage tour for younger people half an hour before the show every night. It has to be safe and people have to know the actors are going to get up and go home at the end of the day.”

Macbeth, Queens Park, February 5-8.

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