There will be blood. Just in time for Halloween comes a gruesome, visceral play at North Central College.
No, it’s not a stage production of “Sweeney Todd” or “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” It’s Shakespeare — at his bloodiest. “Macbeth,” written by William Shakespeare and directed by guest artist Matt Hawkins, will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24-26 and 2 p.m. Oct. 27.
Hawkins, an adjunct professor at Loyola University, was asked by Carin Silkaitis, chairwoman of North Central College’s art and theater departments, to guest direct a play this fall. Fortunately, “Macbeth” was one he had experience with.
“I have directed a version of it before,” he said. “Working on it before helped me know the scenes and the characters really well. Going in, I had a jump start on what works and what doesn’t. I had a much deeper knowledge of the script.”
“Macbeth,” for the uninitiated, is a very meaty play. It’s about a Scottish general named Macbeth who hears a prophecy from three witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Urged on by his wife, Lady Macbeth, he murders the sitting king and takes the throne for himself.
This act leads to further bloodbath in an attempt to hold onto his power. In addition to the witches, Macbeth is haunted by horrible ghosts and apparitions. Ultimately, war, madness and death follow.
His student actors are handling the gory material well, Hawkins said.
“I tried to tailor it so the meat is chewable, if you will,” he said. “I have made some cuts so it’s not going to be a three-hour production. That’s mainly because we didn’t have that long to rehearse — we only had five weeks. And I’m putting a lot of combat in the show; the actual fights will be onstage. There’s all that verse work — I’ve brought a verse coach in to help the actors learn how to use the language. And on top of that there’s the acting.”
He focused the plot on Macbeth’s psychological guilt and struggle with controlling fate.
Audiences should prepare themselves — this isn’t your high school English class production. It’s very visceral, Hawkins said.
“They’re going to be surprised at how gruesome, how bloody and how scary the show is,” he said. “If you don’t know the show at all, I think you can expect what I call simple storytelling. We’ve tried to boil the script down so it’s pretty simple in its presentation and its communication to the audience. Expect to maybe have to look away because it’s pretty graphic to watch. I think it’s going to make people think twice about whether or not you should go after something you are tempted by — is it worth it or not.
“No matter if someone likes it or not, I can promise they will have a strong opinion when they leave the theater.”