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Performing with the Playwright: Mmmbeth

When Jarrett Hannig and the drama students at the Canadian International School of Abu Dhabi in Abu Dhabi, UAE took on the classical adaptation, Mmmbeth, they got so much more than just a great play. Playwright Allison Williams was actually in attendance for the production and even led a workshop for the group! She was thrilled to be able to interact with the cast and shared her thoughts on the experience:

Some coincidences are so strange no-one would believe it if I wrote them in a play!

Jarrett Hennig of Saskatchewan is in his first teaching position, at the Canadian School of Abu Dhabi. He gets an email advertising performances of an all-female Macbeth, staged by a Dubai theatre company as an immersive production where the audience moves freely and follows actors as they wish. Jarrett emails back that he and his kids would love to come, because they are getting ready to perform Mmmbeth by Allison Williams.

Meanwhile, my production manager looked up from this email and asks me at rehearsal, “Are you the same Allison Williams?”

I am indeed. I’m playing Macbeth and fight-directing the show. And I am thrilled to find out about Jarrett’s production!

Once a playwright releases their script into the world, it’s rare to get to see it performed. Most productions are too far away, or at a time I can’t travel. I hadn’t seen Mmmbeth in over ten years.

Jarrett and his students came to a matinee of our Macbeth, and ran through the halls and hidden rooms of the National Theatre of Abu Dhabi, trailing witches and watching murders.

The next week, I came to their school for a stage combat workshop, and they picked up the techniques so fast! And because the students are from so many countries and cultures, we got to try new stage combat moves–how can we use the same technique behind a hair pull, but with a hijab? What culture clashes might (hilariously) lead to a scuffle?

When their performances came, I almost didn’t make it. We’d replaced our Macduff before the last weekend of shows and I had extra rehearsals. But I managed to get to Mmmbeth‘s second night and boy, were they terrific!

Jarrett chose to stage the play in the round, in the middle of their gym/auditorium, and the student actors made great character choices, especially the three witches, who surprised the audience (and made them jump!) every time they entered. And Queen Duncan definitely ruled the play from start to finish, despite being (mostly) dead.

Near the end of Mmmbeth, the murderers came to kill Macduff’s family. The actor playing Macduff also plays Macduff’s son, Macduff Junior. When he’s “killed” he refuses to get up and also be Lady Macduff, because getting killed hurts! Suddenly, the actors moved toward me in the audience, carrying a blonde wig…

(In my head: Did I write audience participation in this script? I can’t remember, it’s been so long…they’re getting closer…CRAP. I totally wrote audience participation in!)

Sure enough, the actors welcomed me to the stage and gave me the directions for Lady Macduff’s big death scene. They didn’t expect that when they said “She’s paralyzed with fear! Fight or flight?” that I would take off running around the entire gym, but bless their 1/3-my-age legs, they caught up eventually and dragged me back for a lovely murder.

Jarrett had wanted to stage Mmmbeth ever since he saw his older brother in a production at their own school. In fact, it’s the play that made him decide to study, and eventually, teach drama!

Coming full circle and meeting each other felt like the best kind of serendipity. Thanks again for the wonderful production, and I’m so glad we met!

What an amazing experience, Canadian International School of Abu Dhabi!

Get a copy of the play Mmmbeth.

*Photo credit: Allison Williams, Nick Brocklebank/PhotoAcacia Ltd

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Products referenced in this post: Mmmbeth

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