“It’s a production that is visually stunning. It’s got fantastic music, it features a string quartet, has stunning costumes, and a cast that are physically truly impressive,” says director Judith Roberts as she describes her latest production, MAC//BETH. When it comes to thinking outside the box, Roberts is definitely the hufen y crwd (cream of the crop to you and me!). With a number of intriguing productions under her belt MAC//BETH is set to be as experimental as they come.
“We’re stepping outside the traditional production giving us the chance to work non-realistically, and we have much more freedom than more traditional productions, including the exploration between recorded action and live performance. It weaves together several elements to create a dynamic, re-imagining of a classic Shakespeare play”
I couldn’t help but wonder why Roberts chose Macbeth when there are so many different plays and genres out there to experiment with. “I was working with Eddie Ladd a couple of years ago, looking at Lady Macbeth and at classical texts as a stimulus for dance, and I realised it had potential. I didn’t set out to do one of Shakespeare’s plays, it was a matter of starting with one character. Lady Macbeth is a character who has intrigued me for many years. I felt that in traditional production we don’t really gain an insight or an understanding of her that I would want to. That’s partly Shakespeare’s fault because she disappears, but I was intrigued by her and her relationship with Macbeth. It was about those two characters in particular – That’s what drew me to Macbeth. I just felt a need to explore them in a way that a traditional production wouldn’t allow me to. ”
Physical performer and award-winner Eddie Ladd stars as Lady Macbeth, alongside Gerald Tyler who is an established physical performer in his own right. “They’re both very prepared to take risks,” says Roberts, as she describes what it was like to work with the pair. “They’re bold people who speak text beautifully and move beautifully as well. It was a challenge to find others who were as able to handle text, speak text and create dramatic performances as they were able to bring physicality to it in a way traditional stage actors would not be able to.”
Ladd and Tyler will join members of Robert’s recently established Company, De Oscuro, for the production: “It’s a company that all get on very well. I work in a way that is very organic, so I don’t come into rehearsal and tell everyone what to do. I start with the text – looking at it and understanding it allowing performers to respond to it. We delved into Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and their relationship, and I decided that we should develop a production that would focus on the relationship and question their motivation: why it was that they had been drawn down an avenue when they so easily could’ve turned the other way and had a very happy life. I was intrigued as to why it was that they gave up so much and risked facing the consequences.”
The company has spent months rehearsing for the show, which combines a range of music, four different languages, text, exhilarating dance and physical theatre – I couldn’t help but ask how the rehearsal process was for all involved: “It’s very demanding. As a performer, because you’re working very physically, it’s one where we’re delving very deep into what life was like behind the words on the page, trying to understand their world and the circumstances that give rise to the events that happen. It’s also one that, on a technical and practical level, is challenging because we’re moving, weaving together, working with projection and music so it’s a matter of merging the process. So the physicality develops in response to the text and the music develops with what happens on stag… it’s a complex process.”
The production, as Roberts says, focuses on the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, featuring fewer characters than the traditional play with the witches featuring more: “I wanted to concentrate on the forces that seduce them (the witches), then subsequently give us glimpses of the other people”.
It’s fair to say this radical reimagining is going to be a twist on a tale Shakespeare fans know and love so well. It focuses on how the couple, were “seduced” by the witches, mixes recorded image and video, has a huge screen upstage and will feature fewer characters – what else can we expect? “You will gain an insight into the characters that might not have been offered previously. It has a physical energy about it that other productions don’t have.” I personally cannot wait to see the production. If you wish to see Macbeth in a totally new way, in the words of Roberts, “Come and see it! Dewch I weld tg” – You won’t be disappointed.
MAC//BETH is on at the Wales Millennium Centre from 1 – 6 November, and at The Linbury Studio Theatre on 12 and 13 November before touring around Wales. Visit wmc.co.uk for more details and tickets.