MöcShplat, based on Macbeth, sticks with you
Content advisory: May offend Shakespeare fans who fail to see the humour.
Geordie Productions is presenting MöcShplat at Centaur Theatre, beginning Feb. 4.
MöcShplat is Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in gibberish, performed by Clowns Gone Bad Productions. It is neither necessary to be familiar with the play about murder, madness and betrayal nor speak fluent gibberish to embrace the experience.
A sense of humour is, however, obligatory. And, of utmost importance, this is not a play for children. It is a play for teens and grownups. Not for children, or, in the words of MöcShplat, “Donghee nogo haha meeni meeni.” Understood?
Last Wednesday afternoon, director Alain Goulem and co-producer and dramaturge Deena Aziz were busy dissecting the finer points of a sight gag involving a ghost’s head on a serving platter and the possible introduction of a rubber chicken. Cast members Danielle Desormeaux, Marcel Jeannin, Michel Perron and John Sheridan contributed, trying this and that, making the gag funnier and then funnier along the way.
They are all seasoned performers who love Shakespeare and have performed Shakespeare on stages at Stratford and the National Arts Centre. Most of them have been in more than one production of Macbeth.
That said, their seasoned Shakespearean background in no way prevents them from being hilariously committed to the retelling of Shakespeare’s shortest and most accessible tragedy in an invented language.
After 30 minutes spent tweaking the gag, and just when you think it couldn’t get any funnier, it does.
“It’s about understanding the architecture of a gag,” Goulem said following rehearsal. “It’s about understanding the mechanics of those mad, improvised moments – and getting that moment back to how it worked best.”
The seeds for MöcShplat were planted back in the early 1990s when Goulem met Desormeaux while working on a play at what is now the Segal Centre.
Goulem’s appetite to pursue the gibberish went into overdrive after appearing in a production of Macbeth so unwittingingly funny, the audience roared in all the wrong places every night.
A 15-minute version expanded to a 25-minute version and then the full-length MöcShplat was performed at the first Wildside Festival at Centaur Theatre in 1997 and again at the Just for Laughs Festival in 1999.
Three of the four original cast members are back, with Perron replacing Pierre Boudreau.
“I’ve always responded to the comedy in things,” Goulem said. “And there is something about tragedy that is really close to comedy.”
Over the years, Goulem and Aziz have come up with a lexicon of 35 “words.” These words coupled with a liberal use of mime are what glue the narrative together.
“By the time we hit the stage, there is very little improvisation,” Goulem said. “If you don’t know the story (of Macbeth) you won’t be left in the dark. Those who know Shakespeare will get the references.”
And MöcShplat reaches beyond linguistic barriers, with both French and English speakers experiencing the gibberish on a level playing field.
It takes a few minutes to adjust, but the brain is a wonderfully adaptable muscle and quite early into the 60-minute rehearsal last Wednesday, a visiting journalist was already understanding both the babble and the broad mime.
It sticks with you, too.
Back in 1999, the cast was having its picture taken in a park, when a car slowed down and the driver yelled a full sentence of perfectly pronounced MöcShplat gibberish out the window.
“That rocked,” Goulem said. “The guy had liked the play so much he’d actually memorized some of the gibberish.”
MöcShplat is presented by Geordie Productions Feb. 4 to 13 at Centaur Theatre, 453 St. François Xavier St. Showtimes vary. Tickets cost $18 for adults, $17 for students and seniors, $14.50 for children age 12 to 14. Not recommended for children under 12. 514-845-9810; www.geordie.ca.