Dancing with the Bard

From The Merry Wives of Windsor to Macbeth’s troubled heroine, the Bard is enjoying a renaissance this year when it comes to inspiring dance and physical theatre

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Lady Macbeth: Unsex Me Here
Published 28 Jun 2017

“I think the way he uses language is to paint pictures, draw characters and scenes. He shows us the story,” says Kally Lloyd-Jones, artistic director of Company Chordelia, whose Lady Macbeth: Unsex Me Here runs at Dancebase throughout August. Taking its name from Shakespeare’s enigmatic anti-heroine and one of her most famous lines, the piece sees Lady Macbeth played by three male performers, addressing the play’s overt and underhand themes of gender and power. “What dance and movement can do is create meaning without always being literal, so there is space for ambiguity or for creating an emotional world which does not exist so easily in words,” says Lloyd-Jones.

Words do feature in Lady Macbeth: Unsex Me Here, however not always of the oral kind. The production is a collaboration with Solar Bear, a Glasgow-based company which creates theatre with a focus on the D/deaf community, and British Sign Language (BSL) has formed a starting point for some of the choreography. At times, explains Lloyd-Jones, verbatim phrases from the play have been translated into BSL, at others embedded BSL words inform the shape of the dance. “Sometimes something would just capture me, like the BSL for ‘funeral’ and I incorporated that into the choreography of the final section to Mozart’s Requiem.”

New pathways to Shakespeare have always found traction in music, art and film, but it seems the Bard is enjoying a particular renaissance in dance this year at the Fringe. Also at Dancebase, John Scott Dance’s Lear promises to delve into themes of parental love and transformation. James Cousins Company’s Rosalind at Summerhall gets to the heart of the tangled gender politics of As You Like It. Korean company Chang Moon are presenting The Merry Wives of Windsor in dance form at Greenside, and Gecko’s The Dreamer over at the Pleasance marries A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Shakespeare’s Chinese contemporary Tang Xianzu’s The Peony Pavilion.

As Lloyd-Jones knows, sometimes looking at a familiar text from a different angle can illuminate new corners. “Of course, you keep finding new things. I have found myself becoming more and more immersed in the character and story of Lady Macbeth so the rest of the play has sort of receded in my mind – which is the very opposite of what happens in the play.”