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OzFrank Theatre Film, The Castle of Macbeth’s Head OzFrank Theatre Film, The Castle of Macbeth’s Head
Since 1992 Jacqui Carroll and John Nobbs’ OzFrank Theatre has created performances “which combine Australian form and content with Asian sensibilities and integrity of purpose to produce a Japan/Australian fusion theatre” (website). Drawing on their dance backgrounds, Carroll’s choreographic and directing skills and Nobbs’ design and performance expertise they have created visceral performances seen around the world—from Queensland to Japan and Turkey.

Carroll and Nobbs have now turned their attention from live performance to making films but, drawing on their considerable repertoire, steadfastly maintain their performative principles. Their first is a feature length film based on Macbeth titled The Castle of Macbeth’s Head—more than a hint that the approach will be emphatically psychological, but doubtless with OzFrank’s inherent physicality.

Nobbs tells us that their Macbeth has been in the OzFrank repertoire since 1995: “We’ve travelled all over the world with it—to Nepal, Mongolia, Croatia, all sorts of places. All our other productions have been filmed but we’ve never had much footage of Macbeth so we decided to film it and then to go a bit further and make a feature film out of it. It was originally about 65 minutes but obviously in film you have to introduce things you don’t need to do onstage, so we added another 20 minutes of intermediary scenes.” When Carroll first directed it she stripped it back, focusing on the key psychological moments: “Macbeth has 11 or 12 of probably the best speeches Shakespeare ever wrote.”

Carroll wanted to film in the corridors of a castle, “So we made the set out of a series of moveable panels—basically plastic sprayed with paint and cement to represent a castle’s inner walls. There are no set battle scenes or anything like that. Jacqui just wanted to concentrate what is actually happening inside Macbeth’s head.” Intensifying this is the transformation of the witches into the murderers, Lady Macbeth’s nurse and the doctor, suggesting that they’re projections from Macbeth’s troubled psyche. “It’s the ambiguity,” says Nobbs, “about what’s stimulated by Macbeth’s mind and by, shall we say, outside or supernatural forces. This approach enabled us to shoot relatively cheaply. David Granato (Polygranate Films) has filmed a lot of our work in the past. This is his film really: he’s the director, Jacqui is the producer. It’s a combination of Jacqui’s vision and David’s technical ability to film our vision of the play.”

In the transition from stage to film Nobbs says, “we’ve realised that rather than competing with cinema we’re actually creating very powerful, almost fantasy-like designs and filming them. To say it’s theatre film is probably better than to say it’s film.” It’s also brought a focus on powerful stillness, already evident in the stage performances: “it enables a lot of close-ups. You can sit on the eyes in much the same way as, say, Sergio Leone did in Once Upon A Time In The West. There’s also the distillation of the voice into something that’s much quieter than on stage. And the film shows the impact of the training itself; it demonstrates its universality. While Suzuki is often seen as having some Samurai/Kung Fu aesthetic, that’s a misinterpretation as far as we’re concerned. The film will be very quiet; not at all histrionic.”

Nobbs and Carroll are enjoying the move into film and are “already embarking on a version of Oedipus after finishing The Loves of Don Perlimplin, a lesser-known chamber piece by Lorca. I play Perlimplin but you never see me. I’ve got the camera on my chest. It’s a home-made steadicam (‘chestycam’ I call it) exploring what point of view means and the ways you can cut and edit.”

With documentation of 21 of their works on film and on video, mostly sold internationally through Artfilms, Carroll and Nobbs are now creating a new niche for the expression of their vision and its aesthetic, a fascinating hybrid—theatre-film—which will further their legacy and generate works to come. The film’s launch will be mc’d by Queensland Theatre Company Artistic Director Wesley Enoch. RT

OzFrank Theatre Film and Polygranate Films, The Castle of Macbeth’s Head, Gala Preview, QTC, Brisbane, 27 August;

RealTime issue #116 Aug-Sept 2013 pg. 42

© RealTime ; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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