Chris McLeod (top) and Zoe Georgaras (bottom) perform fire dancing and sword art for Bear and Company's production of Macbeth. Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Alexander Photography.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

U of O alumni star in production featuring fire dancing and sword fights

There’s no better way to tap into your Halloween spirit than with a good old rendition of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Surrounded by superstitions and witchcraft, Macbeth is the OG Halloweentown.

Set in medieval Scotland, the play revolves around the military general Macbeth, whose bloody campaign for political power begins after three witches prophesize his rule as king.

Previously held outdoors in the summer, the same intriguing plot and beautiful  poetry of Macbeth was revived at the Gladstone Theatre on Oct. 1, and directed by Eleanor Crowder under Bear and Company Theatre group. The classic play was given a unique twist through its use of fire dancing, stunning sword fights, and original music.

Some other distinct features of the play include women playing the roles of men—an interesting role reversal from traditional Shakespearean times—and a more elucidating portrayal of the three witches. The cast of seven played various characters, which served as a real showcase for their acting talents.

The cast included University of Ottawa graduates Chris McLeod and Doreen Taylor-Claxton, who played the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, respectively.

Taylor-Claxton, who currently serves as a professor of directing in the U of O’s Department of Music, graduated with her masters in music, while McLeod received an honours bachelor degree in directing. According to the alumni, their education provided them with the formal training required to excel in the discipline of performing art. 

“The language is beautiful and Shakespeare knew a lot about humanity,” McLeod said of the play. “Different lines are going to resonate with different people. The audience takes whatever they can, depending upon their own perspectives. A few lines may rattle in their minds for some time.”

Both McLeod and Taylor-Claxton have previously worked as actor and director, and believe that both roles are equally rewarding and fulfilling.

“The art is really hard and addictive,” McLeod said of his work. “You can always come back to it, but once you start it is difficult to live without it.”

As for the relevancy of Shakespeare in today’s world, Taylor-Claxton remarked that Shakespeare’s work is popular for a reason.

“In the play Macbeth, a wife pushes her husband to do something totally counter to his conscience. When is that not current? That is what makes Shakespeare transcendent.”

Taylor-Claxton believes that the value of art in our society is to lift up the loneliness experienced by human beings and to remind people that they are not alone.

“People need it more than ever but people do not actually understand that they need it,” she said.

Taylor-Claxton also offered some words of wisdom to aspiring actors. “You have to learn your skillsets. Do not focus on something to start, focus on your skill set.”

McLeod chimed in as well with advice of his own. “Do not do it, unless it is the only thing to do,” he said. “Do it only if (it) is the only thing you are passionate about.”

Bear and Company will continue their season at the Gladstone with their upcoming production of Jaques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris in November, and The Finishing Suit in March. For more information on their productions, you can visit their website.