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As the RSC asks Stewart Lee to rewrite Macbeth’s porter scene, the Herald asks is it wicked to mess with Shakespeare’s words?

Is it wicked to mess with Shakespeare’s words or a necessary injection of mirth and clear meaning? As the RSC appoint comic Stewart Lee to rewrite the Porter scene for the upcoming Macbeth, Gill Sutherland hears from both sides of the argument.

To meddle or not to meddle, that was the debate this week as the RSC announced it had hired a comedian to do a rewrite of Shakespeare.

Macbeth director Wils Wilson may have already arched an eyebrow or two by casting a totally Scottish company (except Lady Macbeth, Irish actor Valene Kane) but the news that Stewart Lee is to rewrite the Porter scene for the production certainly put the wind up a few kilts.

The Porter scene - which comes at Act 2, Scene 3 – sees a drunken porter, answering the knocking at the gate, he plays the role of a devil-porter at the gates of hell. As the knocking persists he makes what is believed to be the first ‘knock knock jokes’.

He admits Macduff and Lennox, who have come to wake Duncan. Macbeth appears and greets them. Macduff exits to wake Duncan, then returns to announce Duncan’s murder.

Despite the Porter’s jokey references being largely obsolete, Herald Arts has nevertheless seen it brilliantly handled by some great actors. Most recently at the RSC that was the 2018 production directed by Polly Findlay, with Michael Hodgson playing a brilliant, omnipresent Porter.

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