Macbeth, retold

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SOLO ACT Yasmin Jasdanwala enacting a scene from The Bleeding Head of Macbeth.
SOLO ACT Yasmin Jasdanwala enacting a scene from The Bleeding Head of Macbeth.

Theatre actor Yasmin Jasdanwala tells Nita Sathyendran about her new play The Bleeding Head of Macbeth. The play will be premiered on Saturday at Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan

Dressed in a voluminous cape-like costume and using just her lithe body, her expressive eyes, her long lustrous hair and her voice, city-based theatre artiste Yasmin Jasdanwala recreates the Bard's immortal characters for her adaptation of Macbeth titled The Bleeding Head of Macbeth. The solo play, directed by Jairo Vergara Fruto – Colombian theatre person and Yasmin's husband, is all set to be premièred on Saturday (May 8) at 6.30 p.m. at the Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan.

“It is an interpretation of Macbeth through the eyes of the much vilified Lady Macbeth. The saying goes that there is a woman behind every powerful man. Isn't that true for Macbeth too?” asks Yasmin as she explains further: “Who influences ambitious men driven by power? Usually, it is the women behind who play a major role. These women also desire to enjoy this power. If you read between the lines of Shakespeare's text, you will see that Lady Macbeth has a very powerful hold over her husband. Of course, there are others who fuel Macbeth's ambition but she is the one who challenges her husband to achieve his goal. In the throes of madness she even betrays her feelings. In her own way did she love Macbeth?”

The duo's new play comes almost a decade after the première of their last production, La Loba (The Wolf Woman) – an adaptation of a Mexican folk tale, which also had strong feminine characters. But one can't help but ask: why Macbeth where one could argue that Macbeth instead of Lady Macbeth is more prominent?

Classic yet contemporary

“Perhaps it is time to hear Lady Macbeth's point of view. That's not to say it is a feminist play at all. We decided on Macbeth simply because the tale is as contemporary as ever. In the world around us we still see innumerable instances of the very same power behind the throne, so to speak,” says Jairo, who also handles the sound effects for the play using a variety of percussion instruments from across the world such as the Bengali Dundubhi, the Dominican tambora and the Latin American maraca.

“Besides after living and breathing La Loba for 10 years, Jairo thought that it was time that I, who have never had any formal training in drama, test my ability as a actor by taking on a complex classic such as Macbeth,” adds Yasmin with a smile as she shrugs off her cape…to reveal her baby bump! “I'm four months along. I don't believe in being mollycoddled just because I am pregnant,” pre-empts the mother of two before we can ask her how she manages to handle what appears to be a physically exerting play.

Sequentially Yasmin and Jairo's interpretation (that was eight years in the making) traces the story beginning with the witches' prophesy and followed by Lady Macbeth's plotting once she receives her husband's letter stating his ambitions, her transformation from sane to insanity, the execution of the murder, and finally the dilemmas of her own questioning mind.

The duo has interpreted Shakespeare's original lines as Lady Macbeth putting words into the head of her husband. “The head here symbolises the spirit of Macbeth, which is represented on stage by a severed head resting on a pile of vermillion [it's the only prop in the play save for a couple of knives], while Lady Macbeth functions as the body of her husband. Hence the title The Bleeding Head of Macbeth,” says Yasmin.

Here Yasmin's costume also helps as the transformative element. With one deft movement, the nun's habit that symbolises Three Witches turns into the cape of Macbeth himself, the gown of Lady Macbeth and so on. However, following in the tradition of Jerzy Grotowski's Poor Theatre movement that stresses on the “live” actor-spectator relationship, it is Yasmin alone who carries the play through her actions, speech and gestures.

After its première in the city, Yasmin and Jairo's Tan Man theatre will present the play in Munich and Berlin and in Valladolid, Spain in the coming months.




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