Virtual Macbeth


Angela Thomas, Kerreen Ely-Harper, Kate Richards

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Macbeth is the story of a serial killer, a story that tales place on the battlegrounds and copses (small forest) of a windswept heathland and within the uncanny domestic spaces of the protagonists’ castles. The presence of the paranormal is strong: it symbolises the ‘dark side’ with which one can choose to bargain if one dares; a parallel universe where deepest desires and power struggles are played out. They are the inner demons of us all.

The island is divided into four key spaces: the arrival grove, Macbeth's head, the "what if?" copse and the teaching studios. In general, the island has a feeling of being windswept heathland. In addition to being windswept, the heath has areas where fog is thick and “dirty”, to resonate with the foul imagery from the play.


The Arrival Grove


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Arrival Grove: This is the entry to the island. You land on the heath, possibly on a small rise, inside a circular shaped grove of fragmented ruins, which form a series of ‘door ways’ leading away from it. On arrival, vistors enter immediately into the heathland, the wind is blowing, the grass is nodding and there is a strong feeling of the locale. Low mist surrounds the grove and is found across the heath in several places.

Three of the ruin pieces have icons on them which are teleports to the other key spaces of the island.
Puzzle icon: teleports you to the "What If?" space
Crown icon: teleports you to the top of the Head space
Theatre masks icon: teleports you to the base point of the three studio spaces, all which are located in the sky. At the base point is a sundial with tps to studio 1, 2 and 3.

At the arrival grove, visitors pick up their avatar kit – Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo, Witch. They are also met by a greeter which provides some basic information, a welcome, and a user attachment which is essential for use inside the Head.

Lines of text from the play will be spoken and emitted into the grove, in order to immediately immerse visitors in the richness, beauty and wonder of the text. Words from these lines will be also be emitted as written text that might float up and around the heath.

Lines of text include:
• Fair is foul and foul is fair, hover through the fog and filthy air
• Unsex me here, make thick my blood
• O horror, horror, horror!
• By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.


Macbeth’s head:


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The largest build is a giant head, the head of Macbeth. The head is elevated on a cliff - the back of the cliff will have a dramatic, rocky shoreline, raging seas, and stormy weather. The head is literally a head lying on its side, as if fallen there from a beheading. It is distorted and its surface area broken, from the fall as it were. It is a metaphor for the visitors’ exploration of Macbeth’s motivations, his consciousness and his unconscious. The head has an organic feel to it, it is covered with rocky extrusions, plant life – it’s a ruin in effect where visitors can scramble and explore the nooks and crannies, the weird animals living there and take in the weird visual perspective. The head is lying on its side as: a) it symbolises the beheading of Macbeth; b) it symbolises the rise and fall of enlightenment and consciousness.

The back of the head faces the worst weather – hence it is damp, mossy and has small rivulets running down it. It’s in the shadows, and has a creepy feel – steps cut into the rear of the head are vertiginous, wonky and peter out from time to time, only to reappear at another point. There may be scaffolding or some supports of a kind at the back here. Rivulets run down the cliff – one begins with clear water that turns bloody as it descends the cliff face. The rocky shoreline, dramatic craggy basalt-like extrusions that have a menacing feel to them are especially important for the back of the head. They would attract damp cold winds and crashing seas.


Inside the head:

Inside there is high contrast between the dark corners and recesses of the heads’ interior, and the shafts of light coming through apertures in the head, piercing the gloom, refracting off dust motes and mist. Through apertures in the head we can glimpse vistas of the island – special luminous and distant views that contrast with the claustrophobic interior and are at odds with our experience outside. This is where space seems non-Cartesian. Inside the Head there are three linked scenes, spelling out his symbolic journey. They are The Throne Room representing Macbeth’s EGO and his delusions of grandeur; The Chamber of Blood being the heart of darkness, his immersion in the paranormal and deep chaos, and The Maze (his confusion and the struggle between analysis, intellect, the visceral and desire). These spaces are discrete yet linked – the ‘walls’ of each are semi transparent, so that visitors can dimly perceive what’s going on around them.


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The Throne Room. This space symbolises Macbeth’s ego, the prophecies that speak to his ego. This tall narrow space reminds us of an old medieval hall. There are ‘German expressionist’ extremes, weird physics and architectural intrigues at its edges. Some of the structure might protrude outside the surface of the head, it is Escheresque, an eyrie from which you can see quite far – raising the question did the head break around the structure or did it rise up through the fallen head? Architecture and nature meld.

This space contains five key features: a gallery, a sound installation, symbols of the ego, a throne and the text from the letter that Macbeth writes to Lady Macbeth after seeing the witches (Act 1, scene 5).

Covering the walls of the Throne room are paintings of Macbeth in multiple adaptations of the play (gallery)

A party of apparitions haunt the space and play sound files when activated by visitors’ proximity to the whole or parts thereof (sound installation). These sound files will contain all of the “golden opinions” expressed about Macbeth at the starting point of the play. These include the following phrases:

1. All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, Thane of Glamis! (witch 1)
2. All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! (witch 2)
3. “All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter” (witch 3)
4. “O Valiant Cousin, Worthy Gentleman” “Noble Macbeth” (Duncan)
5. “Brave Macbeth --well he deserves that name--” (Captain from battlefield)
6. “hail, most worthy thane!” (Ross)


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A curio cabinet (“wunderkammer”) signifies Lady Macbeth's influence in the play and inside Macbeth's head. The cabinet holds symbolic objects that represent the influences on Lady Macbeth. A tall throne is featured in the room which can be sat upon in a “regal” pose – visitors will try sitting there, imagining as Macbeth imagines, of the glory that would be king. They can add a snapshot of themselves in this pose to the gallery.


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Crossroads of Conflict - here an apparition prompts the visitor with an obtuse choice, to either follow one of two paths (right or wrong). The right path leads out of the head and off to the “What If?” island, where visitors will imagine what the resulting consequences of taking the moral path would have been (more on space 3 detailed below). This crossroads is the entire crux of the play, as Macbeth chooses the path of temptation. For this reason, the path of good, or aka the corridor of enlightenment is not as easily seen, is darkened, and shadowy. It might not even be noticed on the first exploration of the head.


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The Corridor of Enlightenment is a short but high-sided corridor, with steep, blank walls and barely a light visible at the end. It feels weird walking there – as if you are fighting gravity. Jewish museum Berlin images and a shot from The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, an early German expressionist movie, give a sense of the pathway taken if Macbeth (the visitor) chooses the “right” moral path.

At the end visitors go out of the head via an ear or a hole in the head to the edge of the Cliffside, and then TP across to the “What If?” island.


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The Path of Temptation. This path initially appears attractive, with flowers or shrubs lining it, but these become grasping hands coming out of the earth, which is dank and riddled with snakes. The change from beautiful garden to the bloody hands and snakes growing foreshadows the horrors to come, and symbolises the change of Macbeth’s internal state of mind. Lines of text slithering along the path floor are phrases urging Macbeth on to worse deeds, based on Lady Macbeth's speech in Act 1, Scene VII.

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At the end of the path the visitor's journey becomes a RIDE and continues round the back of the head. The visitor rides a raven and is ‘drawn’ ahead by a flying dagger along a steep and scary flight path round the back of the head and to the front again to the Chamber of Blood. (This relates to Act 2, Scene 1 from the play – where Macbeth sees a vision of a dagger which entrances him and leads him to Duncan’s chamber and to committing his first murder). During the ride we can hear loud, close-miked breathing, wolves howl and time ticks. Animal apparitions appear and there is a murky darkness surrounding the flight path. This symbolises Macbeth’s downfall.


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The Chamber of Blood is a womb like, crystalline space; There are no right angles, the sides are sloping and visitors feel like they have gravity against them. It’s Macbeth’s Heart of Darkness. Red light seems to pool, the sides are dripping blood and text. Behind the walls we can dimly see animated excerpts of modern 20cth warfare and catastrophe – these images are ‘cut back’ behind the blood walls. It’s blood lust. Agency of the visitor is taken away here, and the visitor is forced to engage in a ritualistic and mechanical killing. This symbolises Macbeth's lack of emotional control as he attempts to kill anybody who who deems a threat to his power.


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The Maze. The maze is comprised of a series of columns/trees – in fact, its as if the columns are transmogrifying into trees or vice versa. The purpose for this is that at the end of the play, the forest comes to the castle, - so it is Birnam Woods meets Dunsinane Castle. The unusual tree/column used to assemble the maze shows this convergence at the very end of the play, at the point of greatest confusion by Macbeth. As Macbeth realises he was tricked by the Witch’s prophecies he wanders aimlessly and crazily about the maze, looking for a way out. It’s a chilly space – wintery and monochrome. The Maze spreads into available cavities in the head. This is Macbeth's confusion.


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Cube of Nothingness – In this weird "nothing" space, visitors’ avatars are beheaded. This space is a moment of reflection wherein Macbeth is faced with his existential crisis. A window offers the only exit, spewing the avatar out of the mouth and back onto the heath below.


The “What If?” Copse


The "What if?" copse is a rocky seaside outcrop. This space is designed for the visitors to contemplate the plays moral and ethical dilemmas. Scattered symbolic objects represent the meta themes of the island.

Symbols include:

Image to come

Statue of Macbeth


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balance scales (truth and justice)


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drama/tragedy masks (the nature of drama)


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bust of Shakespeare (Shakespeare's influence on the English language)


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document wallet (historical source material for Macbeth)




Teaching platforms / studios / rehearsal spaces / machinima making spaces.


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This is the area for scheduled events, workshops and analysis. It is bare and spacious.
The structure is comprised of 3 circular platforms and are assigned respectively – Studio 1, Studio 2 and Studio 3.
On each there is a props chest, and a discrete screen for use with some of the workshops (eg machinima festival). There is tiered seating for audience, participants and passers-by. The platforms are sparse and minimal – they have the austerity of the performance rehearsal room. Its like a fantastic northern European stage set (dark, eerie, obtuse, nightmarish) – think Scandinavian minimalism. On the edge of each platform is a fragment of ruined architecture and invite exploration with their height and intriguing shapes.