Quite a few years ago, I went through a phase where I was really into pro wrestling. I was fascinated by the audience manipulation, the spectacle, the way a show seemed like random matches, but somehow managed to culminate in something that tied it all together. And let’s face it, while wrestling had long since given up pretending it was real, you had to admit that there was some real athleticism there! I wasn’t obsessed, but for a while I watched a lot of it.
At the around the same time, I was working on a production of Macbeth, and it was maybe my 3rd time doing that particular Shakespeare play, and that gave me a lot of familiarity with the text, and it was in the after one performance, that I suddenly made a connection. What if you staged Macbeth as a wrestling pay-per-view?
And the more I thought about it, the more it worked.
Because in a wrestling event, you have this format, where someone gets up and monologues, and then someone else comes in and they might say something in response, and then they fight. And surprisingly, that works really well with the text of Macbeth.
I mean, you have this section near the end:
They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly,
But, bear-like, I must fight the course. What’s he
That was not born of woman? Such a one
Am I to fear, or none.
Enter YOUNG SIWARD
What is thy name?
Thou’lt be afraid to hear it.
No; though thou call’st thyself a hotter name
Than any is in hell.
My name’s Macbeth.
The devil himself could not pronounce a title
More hateful to mine ear.
No, nor more fearful.
Thou liest, abhorred tyrant; with my sword
I’ll prove the lie thou speak’st.
Now take whatever image you have of a Shakespeare staging that you have in your mind and toss it away. And replace it with a wrestling ring, lights, pyrotechnics, and guitar driven music, and two guys with microphones. Macbeth is in the ring. The audience is booing him. Young Siward enters (with theme music and pyrotechnics) but he stays near the entrance, at the top of the ramp down to the ring. They have their back and forth, and at the end with his with my sword I’ll prove the lie thou speak’st he runs down the ramp, launches himself into the ring and fights with Macbeth, who defeats him handily, and awaits the next match.
This was the first moment where the wrestling idea occurred to me. But it worked with many other moments, both later (like the final face off between Macbeth and Macduff) or earlier (the Lady Macduff/Murderers scene). And in true wrestling pay-per-view traditon, some scenes would take place backstage, projected onto the jumbotron, with the crowd cheering or booing. It wasn’t hight art, and it was kinda dumb, but it was fun to consider this strange staging.
I was reminded of this old idea hearing about the Pro Wrestlng Rock Musical The Last Match. It turned out, I wasn’t the only one who had considered the merging of theatre and wrestling.
Of course, my idea couldn’t be done. Not really. Its too expensive, with the lights and pyro, and music and ring and arena. And while it is a fun “thought production” its not one that I am really jazzed about pursuing. But I was really thrilled by the idea of taking Shakespeare out of the theatre, and making it an immersive experience.
The real immersive Shakespeare experience that I have been mulling over for a few years? I’ll keep that one to myself for now, because that one I really want to make happen.