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Tragedy and triumph

Students from the Department of Drama at Queen's learn how to fight with broadswords and quarterstaffs for the upoming production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth. (Supplied Photo)

When the Department of Drama stages its winter production of Macbeth, the classic Shakespearean play will have a distinctly female feel to it.

Out of the 20 actors involved, 17 are women. The three men, in an interesting twist, will be taking up the roles of the witches.

However, this is not a retelling of the classic tragedy.

As director Kim Renders (Drama) points out, the makeup of the production is simply a reflection of the demographics within the Queen’s Department of Drama itself. The vast majority of drama students are women.

The characters themselves will remain true to their origin. Macbeth is he, Lady Macbeth is she.

“My concern is to help the actors tell the story as it was written by William Shakespeare. That’s what I am trying to do,” she says. “The story is the primary focus.”

Of course, that didn’t mean it would be easy.

Early on, as she sat went through the process of selecting the play, Renders quickly came to the realization that there aren’t many plays that have a predominantly female cast. Then she asked why she had to find a play that is mostly female. Instead she would pick a play and just cast more women in it.

The first play that came to mind was Macbeth and the more she considered it the more she thought ‘Why not?’ She placed herself in the position of a student once again and saw an opportunity.

“Wouldn’t it be so exciting as a young woman to be able play some of these really great Shakespearean characters and villains,” she says.

For the most part, however, Renders is holding closely to the script.

As with so many of Shakespeare’s plays, at the heart of Macbeth is the struggle with the human condition, good versus evil, ambition, deceit, murder. All are universal.

“They don’t have gender,” Renders adds.

Where the production does stray from the original is that there will be an opening battle scene. Robert Lindsay, a professional fight choreographer, has been brought in to teach the students how to use quarterstaffs and broadswords.

It’s another great opportunity for the young actors.

“I think everybody is loving it, especially the cast who have the opportunity to engage in the fight scene rehearsals,” Renders says. “I think the women in the cast are happy to be learning these skills. They look fabulous and are clearly having a good time.” 

Macbeth will be staged at the Studio Theatre of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Feb. 3-7 and Feb. 9-11 at 8 pm, along with a 2 pm matinee on Feb. 6. Tickets are $15 for students and seniors or $22 for general admission and can be purchased at theisabel.ca, the Isabel Bader Centre Box Office (12:30 pm-4:30 pm); or at the door prior to each performance.

For more visit the Department of Drama’s website.