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Memoirs of an Intergalactic Thespian, Chapter XI: No Holds Bard

BIO: Jez Patterson is a teacher and writer currently bouncing between the UK and Spain. Links to other things with his name at the end can be found at: jezpatterson.wordpress.com.

"But if we're not allowed to speak the name of the play, how on Earth are we to advertise it?" one of my Players enquired.
"It is between actors the name must not be mentioned!" I explained.
"That's a tad difficult since the principal character is called Macbeth. And there's an awful lot of lines that feature his name."
"When one is not on the stage," I continued, with saintly patience, "it is an actor's tradition to refer to it only as 'The Scottish Play.'"
"Because it, much like my position as director of this motley crew, is accursed!"
The Stratford Amateur Dramatics, Space Hyper-Intergalactic Troupe had recently come into a sizeable bequest with the sole direction that they should become a touring company and take Shakespeare to the colonies. Thus it was that I found myself leading a group of enthusiastic, but ultimately deluded, East Midlanders towards the mining and agricultural planets of the Hally Belt.
"What does 'exeunt' mean?"
"It's an instruction to leave immediately," I said. As in: Exuent off, you ignorant... "And, no, 'Out damned spot' is not Lady Macbeth losing patience with her dog!"
It was then the local Mayor of the Hally 5 settlement popped her head around the door. "I say. How are things going, Mister Director?"
"Fine, fine," I lied. "We'll be ready for tonight's performance."
"Excellent! Can I just say how much we're looking forward to it? We ran out of recorded films a long time ago and are too far to receive televisual broadcasts from the Central Hub. We are, as you might say, culturally starved."
That, at least, was a relief. To a starving man, cabbage was caviar. And, hopefully, ham would be mistaken for fillet minion.
As leader of the troupe, it fell to me to also take the part of The Scottish King. I had foregone the suggestion of my Players to wear a kilt, though the tartan on display amongst the rest of them was like a shortbread fanciers' convention.
Despite my earlier misgivings, the audience were held rapt by our performance. The miners sat dressed in what I imagined passed for their "someday best"--only spoiled by any visible skin being stained by whatever minerals or chemicals they were assigned to extract from the planet's crust and mantle.
When, finally, Macduff stepped onto the stage holding aloft my 'head' and Malcolm was proclaimed king, I knew I was bearing witness to an almost unparalleled, and undeserved, success.
I was just adjusting my robes in order to step out onto the stage and take our bows when the Mayor grabbed my sleeve.
"Simply wondrous!" she exclaimed to which I fluttered a hand in gracious modesty. "The show must go on!" she said enthusiastically.
"Yes," I said, despite her failure to understand the appropriate juncture to utter such a call to arms. She held my sleeve tighter.
"No," she said, moving in close so I could see her teeth, and my attention was called to her particular choice of arm. "The. Show. Must. Go. On."
Starved as they were for entertainment, ignorant as they apparently were to the nature of what constituted a "play," the miners wished to know what happened to Malcom after he took the throne, whether Macduff had ambitions of his own, whether the Witches had more mischief to sow. There had been no cliff-ending intended in the original play, but one was assuredly now faced by those performing at gunpoint.
We had, of course, brought this upon ourselves: mentioning the name, invoking the centuries' old curse!
"What are we supposed to do?" my Macduff enquired.
"You're actors," I said, trying to keep the tremor from my voice. "IMPROVISE!"
After several moments seeing them flounder, stumble over invented verse, and the growing restlessness of an unsatisfied audience, I puffed white powder over my face and arms and took to the stage as MacBeth's equally restless spirit.
And thus began: The Scottish Play 2: Revenge of Macbeth.
In the spirit, as t'were, of slasher films immemorial, we proceeded to relate the murderous exploits of "Macbeth, The Tartan Terror" in five increasingly contrived and cringe-worthy sequels. I despatched witch and noble alike in ways inventive and invective, accompanying each with newly recycled lines to the crowd's crowing delight.
"By the pricking of my thumbs!" as I pressed McDuff's eyes back into his skull.
"Where shall we three meet again: in thunder, lightning or in rain? Or perhaps... in Hell!" as I despatched two of the witches.
"Double, double!" as I folded the remaining witch in half.
"Out, out brief candle," as I set Malcolm alight.
Yet even the most diehard fans recognize when their favorite character has proceeded to a sequel too far.
"Oh, full of scorpions is the mind!" as I pressed some hastily constructed fake arachnids into Fleance's ear canal.
"Thank you," the Mayor said to myself and my exhausted troupe. "I've already sent communiques to the neighboring planets that they're in for a treat." She tapped her nose. "No spoilers, of course!"
I looked across a stage awash with fake blood, fake body parts, and genuinely suffering actors. I sighed.
All the world might indeed have been but a stage. But then so was adolescence. And look what grief that managed to exact in its brief run.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 25th, 2019
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