I’ve long been fascinated by the Haitian Revolution and the role vodou played in it, and I’ve been wanting to write about that for awhile now. But the idea of using that setting as the background for Macbeth? Brilliant. And I do love a good retelling of a classic…
Anyways, check out the last four minutes of this all-black theatre production of Macbeth directed by a young Orson Welles in 1936:
The Voodoo Macbeth is a common nickname for the Federal Theatre Project’s 1936 New York production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Orson Welles adapted and directed the production, moved the play’s setting from Scotland to a fictional Caribbean island*, recruited an entirely African American cast**, and earned the nickname for his production from the Haitian vodou that fulfilled the role of Scottish witchcraft. A box office sensation, the production is regarded as a landmark theatrical event for several reasons: its innovative interpretation of the play, its success in promoting African-American theatre, and its role in securing the reputation of its 20-year-old director.
*The fictional Caribbean island was supposed to represent the post-revolutionary Haitian court of King Henri Christophe.
**Also, to clarify: this was a production of the Federal Theatre Project’s Negro Unit, which is why Welles “recruited” an all-black cast.