Almanac Life: Macbeth marks strongly but misses to the near side

How evocative to attend the Goodwood Theatre for a performance of Macbeth.



It’s a play I’ve been spellbound by since I was at school and studied it in Mrs Maloney’s class. When she was a teenager this small theatre is also where Claire made her theatrical debut in Lola Montez but, Your Honour, to my continuing shame I have no recollection of this.



While I’d read and taught The Scottish Play countless times, the recent realisation that I’d never seen it live startled me. The Goodwood stage was raked towards the audience at an alarming angle and was diamond-shaped. It made me concerned that the artistes might tumble onto the spectators and make us unwitting, additional victims of the supernatural bloodletting.



Our state premier Mr Steven Marshall took his seat just in front of us. Looking like a Kelvinator draped in shapeless black shade cloth, his personal minder sat next to him. I decided to behave myself. Given the play is about civic mayhem and assassination it is surely tax deductible for all aspiring and upright politicians. I trust Mr Marshall kept his ticket stub. Regicide’s always in vogue.



The production was arresting and visceral and I since discovered an article which argued that in this most sinister of Shakespearean texts made notorious by words such as dagger, cauldron and weird the most unsettling word is the.



Best illustrated by this famous section as lady Macbeth urges her husband:


Your hand, your tongue. Look like th’ innocent flower,

But be the serpent under ’t.


Academics argue that instead of using the generic a, the definite article the as in the serpent rather than a serpent implies an underlying idea, a lurking agency and invests it with menacing symbolism.





Friday afternoon in the city and Claire led me by the hand along the harried streets as we evaded the suits and clots of yoof and e-scooters. I felt warm anticipation and the joy of unveiling surprise for it was the monthly moment of personally curated escape that is Mystery Pub.



Tucked away in an almost secreted nook The Historian is like a summery London boozer as the punters were a-throng outside and in. Squeezed in around a pillar on our stools there was pub clamour and buzzing bustle. I was reminded of Jordan in the Great Gatsby who remarked that she loved big parties because, ‘they’re so intimate.’ Our conversation took on a conspiratorial quality and we could’ve been Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in isolated Dunsinane castle, save for the murderous scheming and horrific descent into lonely madness.





I took Alex and Max and their mates to the Glenelg v Centrals game Saturday and can report that the five of them saw upwards of five minutes of footy, collectively. This healthy apathy transported me back to Kapunda games as a kid when the match was often just a loose backdrop, a vague context that gave shape to the afternoon. What a marvellous fortune to be able to take in this beachside frivolity in the late winter. And kids under 18 are admitted free!



During the A grade when I was about ten I ran after my footy among the pine trees behind Freeling Oval and almost stepped on a snake catching some winter warmth. Heart a-pumpin’ I stopped and then like a lorry with the hand-brake on took a wide arc to snatch back my Lyrebird footy. Again, Macbeth and its reptilian imagery comes to mind:


We have scotch’d the snake, not kill’d it.

She’ll close and be herself, whilst our poor malice

Remains in danger of her former tooth.





Our Sunday morning pattern is to take the dogs Buddy and Angel (Buddy and Angel does sound like a dreadful movie in which two unlikely LA cops solve a previously impenetrable crime and win grudging praise from the grumpy Chief of Police) down the beach for a scamper among other hounds and humans.



The winter storms have dumped giant mounds of seaweed over the sand. On the grey, swirling days I could almost sense the hideous witches from Macbeth huddled over a bubbling pot, described thus:


By each at once her choppy finger laying

Upon her skinny lips: you should be women,

And yet your beards forbid me to interpret

That you are so.


It’s an invigorating and elemental way to begin a Sunday and the brisk air does us good and Angel, such a timid, delicate puppy, yelps with delight and leaps like a hare. She’s a beach dog, more Enid Blyton than The Bard.





My old school friend Chris, now splitting his time between Angaston (Ango) and Adelaide texted asking me of my Wednesday night plans. I replied, ‘What have you in mind?’



My phone buzzed with his clear wish, ‘Meat and three veg.’



So we took our meat and (limited to potato) veg at the Duke of Brunswick. Unlike the charmless beer barns of the anonymous suburbs this pub’s an inner-city delight. Warm, snug and with glowing lighting it invites talk of hometown mates and ancient bonds.



In my week of diverse gratefulness, this is another luminous episode.



While the Duke of Brunswick is well-named there’s other British pubs like the Ape and Apple, The Cat and Custard Pot Inn and The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn (try the ploughman’s lunch).



But I’d opt for the title given Macbeth just before he slays King Duncan:


The Thane of Cawdor.


Meet you at the Thane or see you down the Cawdy.



That’d be an apt boozer for a gloomy winter’s night.




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About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello


  1. This is incredible work Mickey. While I might have been slightly miffed that Mac’duff’ didn’t get a mention on account of the beer made famous by The Simpsons, I’m more miffed that the rest of the ‘Nackery hasn’t cottoned on to this piece yet!

    Get thee to a pub-cum-eatery!

  2. Thanks Jarrod. One of my personal measures of a great story or text (like a son) is that I see connections to it all around me. I’m sure this is how it should work. Glad you enjoyed it. It remains a disappointment to me that our pub names are generally pedestrian here. We could use a few more like those in England called The Slug and Lettuce, The Bucket of Blood and The Three Legged Mare- all of which I can recommend!

  3. george smith says

    Memories of 1976 – after traveling all night in a lorry from Wales I arrived bright and early in Stratford on Avon desperately seeking a ticket to Macbeth, the RSC”s hottest event starring their new superstar Ian McKellen.

    Sadly, in spite of my being first in the queue, Macbeth was sold out and I had to settle for Troilus and Cressida. I did however see our boy in the afternoon matinee The Winter’s Tale. Many years later I was browsing through our local library and there it was – a DVD of Trevor Nunn’s legendary production of Macbeth. I eagerly watched it at home and was suitably dazzled, although not as much as i might have been in my early twenties.

  4. Thanks George. I’m glad you got to a play while in Stratford on Avon. When I went there I was quietly impressed at the lack of Shakespearean references and iconography about the town. To their credit the English do these things with restraint and class. I expected every second shop to be either Hamlet’s Hamburgers or Juliet’s Nail Saloon, but it wasn’t.

    We then watched the Polanski version of Macbeth and viewing it through the prism of his pregnant wife Sharon Tate being murdered by Charles Manson looms over the film and especially how Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are characterised.

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