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Review: “EXIT Macbeth,” Noord Nederlands Toneel, at the Staddschouwburg in Groningen

Had to see a stage play for my theatre class. We’d been warned ahead of time it was essentially the best option of a season of shows that weren’t quite the best thing to take a class to.

Adapted from Mastodon nine and a half months after the fact.

As the title implies, EXIT Macbeth is, ostensibly, the story of Macbeth (the play) if Macbeth (the guy) were no longer the protagonist of Macbeth (play again.) Except it’s… not, because when Macbeth (the guy) fails to show up to be in Macbeth (the play) at the start of EXIT Macbeth, we get a quick recap of Macbeth (the play) and then the whole thing just implodes up its own asshole.

If there’s any cohesion here at all, it’s somewhere in, one, the framing device presenting the play as a sort of interactive choose-your-own-story museum, almost like if Macbeth (the play) were The Stanley Parable, (the video game,) whose exhibits are mostly obvious themes yelled out loud at you, and two, the character of the Porter, who in Macbeth (the play) has one short scene somewhere in Act 2, but here becomes the narrator, presenting the play (EXIT Macbeth) as an ode to the minor character, the porters, the walking forests, the women, of these plays. Sounds great. (The Porter character here is just tremendous, by the way, a hoot every time she shows up. For everything else I might say, terrific character, great performance.)

But that’s the problem — everything it says it is sounds great, but everything it actually does is, well, not the thing it’s saying it is. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and that sheep’s name is Macbeth. (This is the play.)


The thing it actually is is more of a soundscape, a large, audio-visual nightmare presentation of sort of the… dream of Macbeth (the play) collapsing in on itself. And I’m not particularly well equipped to talk about dance, but the dance performances, the soundscape, the minimalist staging, the puppets, it’s all great, every performer is very good at their job and a blast to watch. Like, the thing it actually is, everyone both on stage and behind it really seems to believe in it and stand by it, and you can tell from every seat in the house.

But what it is isn’t what it said it was or what I wanted. In the end it’s a mess that just about manages to border on the incomprehensible because it says all its themes out loud too hard to properly land on either side. But it’s a very pretty mess.

And I haven’t even mentioned the naked witch going through Mother Nature’s dating profiles.

Trailer content warning: Flashing images, taxidermy.

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