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Shakespeare’s “Maag-Pehh” at Tallinn NO99 Theatre

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Until yesterday I thought the newest & most innovative theatre in Estonia was NO99. The actors & set decorators & directors that I would recommend as a complex visual masterpiece to any visitor of Estonia, on quite a high level.. Just go and see Nafta! and you’ll know what I mean

But yesterday I was really forced to evaluate my opinion. At least considering the Shakespeare MacBeth performance. Unless you’re a huge Shakespeare fanatic or a fan of Jaan Türnpu & Anne Toomik, or real banal modern theatre, don’t go there!

I actually like Shakespeare, although many people don’t. I’ve seen quite a lot of different versions of Hamlet & Merchant of Venice & R&J etc. Plus, I think I’ve seen quite a lot of theatre performances in general. What I like about Shakespeare are the huge possibilities it offers, one can practically do anything with it.

NO99 didn’t do much, really, besides the common modern theatre crap one could see on stage. People switching their roles constantly, using chairs & shaman drums only as main requisites, scenes falling into each other, a little bit (could have been much more!) shadow theatre, and most of all: being extremely loud and annoying.

Perhaps that was the intention. Perhaps. But even in this case I think it could have been done better. There was everything that annoys someone in modern theatre & that has been used for the whole end of 20th century theatre already. No surprises. No music, almost no requisites, the compulsory sex scene, distorted voices, and, most of all: being very loud & aggressive & the actors yelling everything they could say at normal voices. Full disappointment.

Of course, one could explain all this. One could say that the piece is so heavy that one shouldn’t like it anyway. But what’s the point of doing bad theatre? Should that be art?

Btw, it was the first time I saw the main actor reading his text out withouth knowing it by heart. Not nice. One could see it as art as well. I didn’t. The MacBeth figure stayed behind other figures, just like the actors stayed behing their figures. Of the marvellous NO-group really nobody could show what they were able to do. All very basic. Maybe that was the point too, one shouldn’t expect anything in this performance? And I also missed the “magic” part, the “maag pehh” part…

Any good things at all? Hm, let me think. Perhaps throwing the dices in the end. But it was far too short & didn’t have the effect it could have.

I could go on endlessly I suppose. And I could try to find lots of post modern & theatre theoretical explanations why the play was the way it was. But what keeps me from doing it is feeling I had yesterday… I really thought that if the play had had 2 acts I would have left during the pause. I can see bad theatre shows anywhere, I don’t have to go to NO99 for that. Even if it’s supposed to be art…

P.S. I can’t wait to read professional theatre critics’ opinions on this performace…

Janika Ots