The curse of ‘the Scottish play’ is a long-established theatrical tradition. From Macbeth’s first staging in approximately 1606, when an actor was reported to have died on stage, productions of the tragedy have faced more than their fair share of mishaps. Rival New York productions led to a riot in 1849, while Laurence Olivier narrowly avoided injury when a stage weight fell inexplicably in a 1937 production.
In 1994, we reported on the curse striking again, this time during a small production of Macbeth performed in north London. The Stage covered the disaster, which saw the run delayed by several days due to a faulty washing machine in the flat above:
“The show, staged by the London Via Stoke company, was scheduled to open last Wednesday but the opening had to be halted with only hours’ notice after water cascaded through the roof of the Hen and Chickens Theatre in Islington and wiped out the electricity supply.”
In spite of disaster striking, the cast and crew managed to remain positive about the run: “Upon hearing the news, director Tony Longhurst suggested that the name of the production should be changed to help lift the curse. ‘Under the circumstances, we’re thinking of changing it to Macbath,’ he joked.”
If you’d like to read more stories from the history of theatre, all previous content from The Stage is available at the British Newspaper Archive in a convenient, easy-to-access format. Please visit: thestage.co.uk/archive