Being Banquo

Martin Gibson

COLUMN

Hey!” said Norman Maclean suddenly, furrowing his brow intently and leaning forward as if an idea had just occurred to him during a pause in my rant on the existential threat Islam and its social Marxist Trojan horse pose to Western civilization.

“I’m directing Macbeth this year, and there’s a part I think would really suit you — you have the size, the presence, and the beard . . .”

My training kicked in right away. Although designed specifically for Fight For Life, my drills in front of the bathroom mirror, repeating the words “Aw, no, thanks!” until I can see my resolute face through the steam is a useful tool to avoid commitments I might regret as I get punched in the face, or in this case, stabbed in the back.

“Awww . . .” I began, but he was too quick.

“The role I’m thinking of is Banquo, a Scottish general — it’s a great part, it would really suit you,” he continued.

“There aren’t many lines to learn and you get killed in Act Three, so you wouldn’t even have to come to all the practices. I’ll let you know when we’re auditioning.”

With the thin end of the wedge in and the option to back out reassuringly at hand, I researched Banquo and liked him. I auditioned and got the part.

Banquo is the guy who doesn’t trust the witches when they tell Macbeth he will be the king, and Banquo that his descendents will also. As any Zen Buddhist should know, there may be magic and miracles, but what of them? They merely feed the ego, and are often used by others to give false authority. They do not help one to obtain enlightenment.

Banquo is tempted by the notion of being “the root and father of many kings”, “but”, he cautions Macbeth: “Tis strange, and oftentimes to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray us in deepest consequence”.

A bit like the manufacturers of energy drinks and breakfast cereals do to kids today.

As well as his renowned ability to put on a great show and get people to say “yes” to months of rehearsal and face the fear of looking like “Ye olde foolee” as my wife cautioned I would if I didn’t learn my lines, there were two things on Norman’s side as he pressed me into the Shakespeare’s service.

First there was the awakening I had as I watched the Netflix series “Vikings” and realised Maori and Pakeha would be better finding some common ground through our common pagan warrior past where trees and hills could be sacred. This opportunity to inhabit a character who could have been one of my Highland ancestors before they were cleared off their land offered a link to that past that Maori also enjoy as they do kapa haka, that link the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung sought to find when he built a stone house by Zürich that his distant ancestors would have felt at home in. Macbeth is a kind of Pakeha kapa haka.

The second thing in Norman’s favour is that when I look back on events and commitments that make a year stand out in terms of peak experiences, those undertakings were usually an inconvenient pain in the butt at the time. The depressing corollary to this is that if we want to live fulfilling lives, we must periodically say “Yes!” to things that are inconvenient, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable.

As this goes to print, opening night is six nights away, and I know my lines. I am Banquo. The amount of organisation and effort I have seen go into the production is startling, and I can assure you, it is well worth coming to see.

In many ways I find it easier to be a man in 1050 AD Scotland than in 2017 New Zealand. When life was tough people spent less time absorbed in trivial pettiness. Big men had more authority, and the Macbeths and Lady Macbeths got their comeuppance attended by satisfying gouts of blood rather than fruitless HR meetings.

Today, there is no bloodshed as beta males who long to be alphas sneak their way to the top with the help of their PR women. Somehow it all seemed a bit more honest when people would literally rather than figuratively stab those in the back who blocked their path to the trough.

It is always great to get an opportunity to talk to young people, and I was surprised at how invigorated my young castmates also feel as they return to a world before political correctness made weakness a virtue, and disadvantage a badge of honour rather than something to strive to overcome.

It’s nice to have a broadsword in my hand once more, and to be back in Scotland before fossil fuels and technology made everything so bloody comfortable that we lost character strength and resilience.

• Macbeth opens next Friday August 18th 730pm at Unity Theatre on Ormond Road, with two 4.30pm matinees on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th, then evening shows August 22-25th.

• Tickets to Macbeth are available from Gisborne i-Site. There will be door sales, subject to availability.

Hey!” said Norman Maclean suddenly, furrowing his brow intently and leaning forward as if an idea had just occurred to him during a pause in my rant on the existential threat Islam and its social Marxist Trojan horse pose to Western civilization.

“I’m directing Macbeth this year, and there’s a part I think would really suit you — you have the size, the presence, and the beard . . .”

My training kicked in right away. Although designed specifically for Fight For Life, my drills in front of the bathroom mirror, repeating the words “Aw, no, thanks!” until I can see my resolute face through the steam is a useful tool to avoid commitments I might regret as I get punched in the face, or in this case, stabbed in the back.

“Awww . . .” I began, but he was too quick.

“The role I’m thinking of is Banquo, a Scottish general — it’s a great part, it would really suit you,” he continued.

“There aren’t many lines to learn and you get killed in Act Three, so you wouldn’t even have to come to all the practices. I’ll let you know when we’re auditioning.”

With the thin end of the wedge in and the option to back out reassuringly at hand, I researched Banquo and liked him. I auditioned and got the part.

Banquo is the guy who doesn’t trust the witches when they tell Macbeth he will be the king, and Banquo that his descendents will also. As any Zen Buddhist should know, there may be magic and miracles, but what of them? They merely feed the ego, and are often used by others to give false authority. They do not help one to obtain enlightenment.

Banquo is tempted by the notion of being “the root and father of many kings”, “but”, he cautions Macbeth: “Tis strange, and oftentimes to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray us in deepest consequence”.

A bit like the manufacturers of energy drinks and breakfast cereals do to kids today.

As well as his renowned ability to put on a great show and get people to say “yes” to months of rehearsal and face the fear of looking like “Ye olde foolee” as my wife cautioned I would if I didn’t learn my lines, there were two things on Norman’s side as he pressed me into the Shakespeare’s service.

First there was the awakening I had as I watched the Netflix series “Vikings” and realised Maori and Pakeha would be better finding some common ground through our common pagan warrior past where trees and hills could be sacred. This opportunity to inhabit a character who could have been one of my Highland ancestors before they were cleared off their land offered a link to that past that Maori also enjoy as they do kapa haka, that link the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung sought to find when he built a stone house by Zürich that his distant ancestors would have felt at home in. Macbeth is a kind of Pakeha kapa haka.

The second thing in Norman’s favour is that when I look back on events and commitments that make a year stand out in terms of peak experiences, those undertakings were usually an inconvenient pain in the butt at the time. The depressing corollary to this is that if we want to live fulfilling lives, we must periodically say “Yes!” to things that are inconvenient, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable.

As this goes to print, opening night is six nights away, and I know my lines. I am Banquo. The amount of organisation and effort I have seen go into the production is startling, and I can assure you, it is well worth coming to see.

In many ways I find it easier to be a man in 1050 AD Scotland than in 2017 New Zealand. When life was tough people spent less time absorbed in trivial pettiness. Big men had more authority, and the Macbeths and Lady Macbeths got their comeuppance attended by satisfying gouts of blood rather than fruitless HR meetings.

Today, there is no bloodshed as beta males who long to be alphas sneak their way to the top with the help of their PR women. Somehow it all seemed a bit more honest when people would literally rather than figuratively stab those in the back who blocked their path to the trough.

It is always great to get an opportunity to talk to young people, and I was surprised at how invigorated my young castmates also feel as they return to a world before political correctness made weakness a virtue, and disadvantage a badge of honour rather than something to strive to overcome.

It’s nice to have a broadsword in my hand once more, and to be back in Scotland before fossil fuels and technology made everything so bloody comfortable that we lost character strength and resilience.

• Macbeth opens next Friday August 18th 730pm at Unity Theatre on Ormond Road, with two 4.30pm matinees on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th, then evening shows August 22-25th.

• Tickets to Macbeth are available from Gisborne i-Site. There will be door sales, subject to availability.

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