‘Timeless medieval’ Macbeth comes to life at Queen’s Theatre
- Credit: Mark Sepple
Lead actors Phoebe Sparrow and Paul Tinto speak to the Recorder about bringing Macbeth to life in the timeless Shakespeare classic.
When three witches on a heath tell Macbeth that they have a disturbing prophecy for a victorious warrior, he and his daring and determined wife, Lady Macbeth draw bloody daggers as they set out on a fateful path for him to become king of Scotland.
"I've been covered in blood for eight months!" said Phoebe, who is fresh off the set of a sci-fi horror film.
Macbeth, set in a very contrasting time period but as equally blood-soaked, required a complex dissecting of the characters and subtleties within the lyrical text for the cast to really become Shakespeare's unfortunate noblemen.
Lady Macbeth, probably Shakespeare's most famous and frightening female character, is one of the most complex to embody.
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"It's important to not reduce her down to being this evil mastermind, there's so much to her rather than just the actions that happen - looking at why does that happen, everyone's actions are consequence of something," said Phoebe who plays Lady Macbeth.
"I'd been looking a lot at losing a child, about what happens to mothers when they lose a young child and also couples, the trauma that happens after you lose a child, which plays a part in her story definitely and that's been really interesting," she added.
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"It's one of these plays you think you know really well but then when you start looking at in depth you realise how much is in there in terms of the story and in terms of the characters, there are so many preconceptions when actually there's so much going on in there," said Paul who plays Macbeth.
"When you start looking at everything that Shakespeare's put in there, in terms of the language, it's so complex and so amazing - he's picking apart so many different parts of the human condition which get forgotten about"
The script is almost completely unabridged, with a few minor cuts from director, Douglas Rintoul.
"He didn't want to put it into a modern context, he didn't want any parallels to be drawn, I think he wanted the audience to be able to make them up by themselves, so it feels timeless," said Paul.
"It's so epic that it deserves that timelessness," added Phoebe, describing a need to respect the classic, unaltered work.
The production teams, a coproduction by Derby Theatre and Queen's Theatre have gone for a "medieval timeless" theme, where the costumes and setting are clearly medieval but with a more mystical agelesnness.
"It's still happening in a medieval world, but it's not like 'okay this is what was happening in 1040, there's just a feel for an older time but it's not dated as such," explained Phoebe.
Paul added: "You do take for granted with a modern script though, just how quickly things are going in, there's chunk of time when you're just understanding the thoughts."
The cast spent the first week simply reading the script to make sure all the actors knew what was being said and having so many schools booked in to come in to see the play in Hornchurch, it's important that even a younger audience can remain engaged as well.
Paul explained: "Sometimes when you watch Shakespeare on stage, there are some actors whereby you totally understand what's going on, regardless of whether or not you got every analogy."
"Some of the word play and poetry is just amazing, just the images of the words he's using is just incredible, even regardless of the play you're doing, it's just fun discovering his word play, whether you like his stories or not, you can't take away from the fact that the guy knew what he was doing."
Phoebe finished by saying: "For actors, it's such a pleasure to work on this every day, it's a work out because of the language but when you use the language to help you as an added gift rather than something you have to contend with, it's suddenly amazing - a huge positive."
Macbeth is coming to Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch from February 7-29.