triumph after a terrible ordeal that thenEnglish felt in the last year of the warnagainst Hitler. The film drew its energynat least as much from memories ofnDunkirk and the Battle of Britain asnfrom the Hundred Years War, andnOlivier called attention to that fact byndedicating it to “The Commandoesnand Airborne Troops of Great Britain.”nAgain, Roman Polanski’s Macbeth wasnproduced after the murder of Polanski’snwife, Sharon Tate, by the CharlesnManson gang. Its brutality, its bloodiness,nand its hallucinatory treatment ofnthe witches combine elements innShakespeare’s play with memories ofnthe murder.nThe Stratford Festival has neverntreated Shakespeare as a historical relic.nSometimes its efforts to make himncontemporary have been botched. Oftennthey have been controversial, especiallynin Canada where Shakespeareworshipnis widespread and begets a sectnof fundamentalists outraged by thentiniest deviation from the sacred text.nBut for the most part they have beennlively, and usually brim full of life.nWhat else would draw tens of thousandsnof visitors annually from Detroitnand Chicago and Toronto and Ottawanto the wilds of Ontario’s farm belt?nLike all theaters, Stratford has hadninteresting and comparatively uninterestingnyears. I do not refer here to itsnproductions, but to the direction of thenfestival as a whole. And I mean “interesting”nin the sense of the old Chinesenproverb, “May the gods save you fromnliving in interesting times.”nNineteen-eighty was an interestingnyear. In that year the brilliant butndifficult Robin Phillips resigned as artisticndirector, precipitating a series ofncrises replete with sensational chargesnand counter-charges that vastly titillatednthe Canadian press and almostndestroyed the festival. When John Neville—nbest known in the United Statesnas Baron Munchausen — became artisticndirector in 1986, he inherited anmassive debt and a still-shaken company.nWhen he stepped down in 1989,nthe festival had a surplus of over $4nmillion and all but the most severenbruises had been healed.nDavid William, Neville’s successor,nis an old-line Stratfordian with extensiveninternational experience. His mostnnotorious Stratford production was anTroilus and Cressida complete withnBrian Bedford as Macbeth.nmotorcycles, leather jackets, and homosexualngang rape.nAsked about it, he laughs. MostnCanadian reviewers hated it, butnAmerican reviewers tended to be enthusiastic.nWill we see more productionsnlike it while he is artistic director?nHis answer is that every play has itsnown unique demands. Macbeth, whichnhe co-directed and which is the centerpiecenof the 1990 season, is set in then17th century and is straightforward,nalmost straight-laced in its staging.nWhy the contrast between the hyperexperimentalnTroihis and the traditionalnMacbeth?nAccording to William, the problemnin Troilus was to make the ugly realitynof the play immediate in spite of thencomplexity of Shakespeare’s language.nThe problem in Macbeth is different.nThe plot is relatively simple but thenchief character is a military hero, and inn1990 military heroism is out. Audiencesnneed the psychological distancenprovided by the 17th-century setting.nEven audiences skeptical about militarynheroism, William argues, will acceptnthe idea that heroism was admirablenduring the late Renaissance. Thensame is true of the witches. They arencredible in a Renaissance setting butnwould be absurd in the 20th century.nIt’s a logical argument, and Williamnhas chosen two of the festival’s finestnnnperformers to give it force. GoldienSemple is a six-season Stratford veteran,nand Brian Bedford is a ten-seasonnveteran who may also be the mostnbrilliant Shakespearean actor of hisngeneration. With a director like Williamnand leads like Semple and Bradford,nMacbeth has to be a smash, right?nWrong. It’s easy to see where thenproduction goes off track. In the firstnplace, William’s theory about heroismnis a backhanded confession that henconsiders the play remote from modernnconcerns. That point of view mightnbe fine in a history lecture, but it is ansure way to kill the play. In the secondnplace, William’s Macbeth is either evilnfrom the start or totally converted tonevil during his first encounter with thenwitches. Both interpretations makenLady Macbeth superfluous and gut thenconflict between her will and Macbeth’snconscience that is so powerful innthe play Shakespeare wrote.nDeprived of her role as a demonicallyndriven shaper of events, GoldienSemple is reduced to behaving like anhousewife nagging her husband becausenhe lets himself be walked on atnthe office. The mad scene is nicelyndone, but it is detached from everythingnbefore and after. This LadynMacbeth hasn’t exhibited enoughnstrength of character to go mad.nWhen discussing the role of Macbeth,nBedford remarks that it begins atna high emotional pitch and goes onnfrom there. He is saying what thenaudience can see all too plainly: untilnlate in the play, Macbeth does notnchange or develop. If there are conflictsnbetween his role as military heronand his decision to commit treason ornbetween his ambition and his conscience,nthey are suppressed. Whatndoes happen, and what Bedford projectsnso brilliantly that it almostnredeems the production, is that Macbethneventually loses all of his illusions,nincluding his superstition. Bedford’sn”To-morrow, and to-morrow” perfectlyncatches this moment of absolutendesolation. Yet even here, and in spitenof Bedford, the moment has an academicnquality. The soliloquy is more anrecitation than a performance. Recitationnis not Bedford’s usual style, andnsince when has the Stratford Festivalntreated a Shakespearean play as a seriesnof Famous Speeches?nYou wonder a littie about William asnSEPTEMBER 1990/47n