Weird: the untold story of Macbeth’s three witches, takes a behind-the-scenes look at just what the witches get up to while ‘ol Mac is on his guilt-ridden rampage. Writer/Director Phillip Psutka’s interpretation is that, conspiring behind Hecate’s back, the three sisters: nubile and naive, fiery and fierce, and eldritch and experienced, took it upon themselves to manipulate Macbeth, not expecting the ambitions of both he and his wife. It is up to the witches then, when all goes to chaos, to restore the natural order by exposing the weakness of Macbeth, and ultimately destroying him.
Back in October, Theatre Arcturus, under the direction of Phillip Psutka, embarked on a weird journey into the magical mystery of the three witches of Shakespeare’s famous Macbeth. Eight months on, the wonderfully wicked witches of Weird are reaching for new heights (technically still the same heights as they’ve been using the same aerial rig since the beginning).
Having toured to Windsor, Hamilton, and Stratford, Weird is winding up for a one-night-only performance at the 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture, Arts, Media & Education, before conjuring up crowds at the Ottawa Fringe, and then at Nuit Blanche North in Huntsville.
This incredibly physical show joins theatre, aerial silks, and stage combat together into a delicious brew for everyone to enjoy.
I had the privilege of speaking with writer and director, Phillip Psutka last week to talk about the weird journey Theatre Arcturus has been taking these past months. Around co-creator and performer, Lindsay Bellaire coming back from a stint in China, and Phillip working on Humber River Shakespeare’s: Falstaff & The Merry Wives of Windsor, this power couple have somehow managed to keep Theatre Arcturus shining bright for all to see. Here’s just a little of what Phillip and I talked about:
SWEPT: So how’s the tour been going?
PHIL: It’s been going really well. We finally have the show closer to the way we originally envisioned it; much closer to the way that we’re looking at developing it. It’s been interesting setting the show for different venues. We discovered what works best is working in the round, and the group is so solid at this point.
SWEPT: There is new casting, isn’t there?
PHIL: Yeah, her name is Emily Hughes. We had another actor, Polly Phokeev, for our run here in Toronto, and then for our second run that we did when we brought it to Windsor. She was originally going to be with us for our SpringWorks run, but she had other opportunities that came up, so we decided to take the opportunity to put out an audition call and, because she was playing the eldest sister and the one who, in essence, had the most experience, we were looking for someone who had some sort of aerial experience as well. So Emily came out to audition, and on top of having twenty years of aerial performance experience, she also graduated from Ryerson’s acting program, and had a little bit of stage combat, so…
SWEPT: What more could you ask?
SWEPT: So are there new shows in the works that have been percolating?
PHIL: At the moment what we’re doing is putting together a package that we can send out to schools , and we’re also starting to focus a lot more on events because we have a lot of stuff that’s developing that way and one or two acts for that. So that’s kind of our main focus right now. What we’d like to do is see where Weird goes with schools, and take the show to other festivals that it would work for, and once that one is really starting to go a little bit more, then we’d like to see about developing a new one. But for right now, this is enough.
SWEPT: Is there anything specific you want our readers to know?
PHIL: Well you saw our first run, and you haven’t seen any since?
SWEPT: I haven’t seen anything in between.
PHIL: Ok, so it’s drastically different. The main change that we made after the first run was to make the story very clear, especially for people who don’t know Macbeth at all, because it’s not Macbeth’s story, it’s the witches’ story. So what I did was I actually wrote an original script that we’ve been using since, and tweaking and editing a little bit. Some of Shakespeare’s text is still in there, so any of the iconic moments with them; any of the charms: that’s still Shakespeare’s text. But that aside, I really hope that people are all able to come out and see it, just to see the work that these four women have put into this. It’s absolutely unbelievable. The way that they work together, and it will…you will feel tired at the end of the show because of the level of intensity of the show, not just at the physical level, but also with the specifics of the storytelling, and the intimacy with which you see these beings. Even though it’s big, and it has its spectacular moments, and it uses the visual height in a big way, it is wild, but it is surprisingly intimate.
The witching hour draws near, and only a week away, these Weird sisters are preparing to conjure up a fantastical performance with a few pages of Shakespeare, a slice of Psutka’s brain, and a whole lot of heart. For time and tickets, visit the Theatre Arcturus website HERE.