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Research in African Literatures 30.4 (1999) 135-143

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Gestural Interpretation of the Occult in the Bin Kadi-So Adaptation of Macbeth

Marie-José Hourantier


The Bin Kadi-So adaptation of Macbeth 1 explores different levels of reality that lead us to participate in an occult world, where everything occurs in a muted atmosphere and the essentials of action are woven together. In that mysterious universe that Tradition reveals to us by facilitating its communication with our plane of existence, we can study the actor's gestural performance when his or her eyes encounter the unseen, ears the unheard, and hands the untouchable. The actor leads the spectator into places that are familiar, where the boundaries between the visible and the invisible are abolished and the actor both unleashes and struggles against dark forces.

The body is the locus in space where all planes of existence converge and all lived experiences are structured and registered. The invisible is translated in the African adaptation of Macbeth through an actor who, through gestures above all else, subjects the environment to his will to power. The actor's mystical gestural language cannot be subjected to a precise interpretation by the spectators: it is first and foremost a matter of the spectators individually apprehending it, sensing its manifestations in the characters' comportments, immersing themselves in it, and then projecting their individual interpretations. Each spectator reaps, then, the fruit of his or her individual openness to the experience.

Gesture in Africa operates, as Bergson said, "dans le sous-sol de l'esprit" 'in the depths beneath the mind.' Trance is born of a rhythm created through the play of instruments and song, which must reach a certain threshold to achieve the second state, that of the "criseur," that is, the "entranced individual." Each individual obeys a personal rhythm, and when the instrument is attuned to that person's biological rhythm, the individual experiences a trance. Trance, for the purposes of this essay, is considered a rite of passage where the problem character passes from one level of consciousness to another, expressing another personality that he or she reveals to himself or herself and that often triggers the behavior to come.

This phase dramatizes desires and their conflicts, tensions. During these rites of trance, the individual departs from reality for a symbolic world filled with liberating images, where social masks are removed so that fantasies become corporeal. In Macbeth, a number of sequences are understood only under the effect of a trance: in act 1, Macbeth receives a message from King Duncan as soon as he enters into a state of trance: "Voyez comme notre compagnon est absorbé" ("Look how our partner's rapt," 1.3: 144). 2 The production comprises two settings, used simultaneously: the forest, symbolized by a camouflage net where spirits stir about, and the palace, symbolized by cloth corridors. Facing the forest, shoulders shaking rhythmically, he unleashes the image of the King who rises out of the netting like a ghost and confides: "Mes fils, mes parents, et vous chevaliers, sachez que nous [End Page 135] voulons léguer notre empire à notre aîné, Macom, que nous nommons désormais Prince de Cumberland" ("Sons, kinsmen, thanes, / And you whose places are the nearest, know / We will establish our estate upon / Our eldest, Malcolm, whom we name hereafter / The Prince of Cumberland," 1.4: 35-39).

The trance facilitates the liberation of his secret desires; the designation of the title of heir ("Prince of Cumberland") startles him and strengthens his resolve: "Le prince de Cumberland! Voilà une marche que je dois franchir sous peine de faire une chute" ("The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step / On which I must fall down or else o'erleap," 1.4: 48-50). The trance intensifies, with Macbeth gripping the Palace hangings as if to better consolidate his decision. The word-become-incantation is married to gesture and induces Lady Macbeth's trance in the forest: "Etoiles, cachez vos feux! Que la lumière ne...


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