When I read the tagline for Geordie Theatre’s MöcShplat—”Shakespeare … in a language you can finally understand”—I assumed they were being ironic. But this clown version of Macbeth, told only in gibberish, was not only easy to understand, it also made the plot and themes accessible for the Shakespeare novice and expert alike.
Despite the clowns, MöcShplat—which pokes fun at drunks, fornication, and murder—is not a show for children. With a cast of four clowns, played by Marcel Jeannin, Michel Perron, John Sheridan, and Danielle Desormeaux, and directed by Alain Goulem, the play is the product of a series of workshops and presentations that emerged in the late 1990s. Working collaboratively on gags and the creation of an original language, the group of seasoned actors is a joy to watch. With a language of their own and an adept use of mime and gesture, they weave their story so effectively that any previous knowledge of Macbeth is unnecessary. YetMöcShplat also caters to the Shakespeare lover in the audience. Those familiar with Macbeth will laugh uproariously at the clown rendition of “Is this a dagger I see before me?” Lady Macbeth’s “Unsex me here,” and one of my personal favourites, “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow.”
The cast should be commended for their energy, precision and skill. Highlights included Perron’s Godfather-like Quindönk (Duncan), Sheridan’s fight between two clowns in the wings, and Desormeaux’s incredible facial expressions. All the actors have perfect comedic timing, and the music in the show gives their movements a dance-like precision. This, combined with the clash of their clown personalities and the absurdity of the costumes and props, makes MöcShplat sidesplitting from beginning to end.
The most impressive part of the performance is how well it displays themes of the Shakespeare classic. Director Alain Goulem suggests that clowns, with their childlike desires to have one thing one moment and another thing the next, makes them the perfect vessels to explore Shakespearean themes. This is evident through Jeannin’s MöcShplat (Macbeth), who hits all the marks of this complex character, demonstrating his shifts from ambition, fear, and nobility in a way that’s not only believable, but also identifiable; the best theatrical device to this purpose was the use of red yarn as blood. After killing Quindönk (King Duncan), a gruesomely funny scene that only a clown could pull off, MöcShplat remains covered in bits of red string for the rest of the play. As the play continues, bits of red string are dropped here and there, so by the end, just like Laädie’s (Lady M) hands, MöcShplat, the stage, and even some of the audience members are covered in blood—a fitting metaphor for the bloodthirsty story.
Montreal is just the beginning for MöcShplat. Plans include touring across Canada, then hopefully continuing to Edinburgh and Europe. One can expect big things from this show—the great energy and thought that brought about its inception certainly indicates a bright future. These happy, horny, cruel, drunk, scared, and silly creatures offer a much needed ray of sunshine in these cold months.