Macbeth: Interview with Rachel Shrives

A grey morning. Two tired uni students have a conversation.
Claire Ferguson talks with Rachel Shrives, Assistant Director of UHT’s Macbeth + macdeath: a coda.

What are one or two of the key elements of your production of Macbeth?
Macbeth in a few words is about over turning the natural order. By natural order, I mean privileges that we’re given that we don’t question, being born into a system of privilege. Macbeth as a character is certainly born into this system of privilege.
He has a lot of uncertainty and conflict. His decisions to act precede anything else and his actions specifically show who he is before he knows it himself. This reflects everyday life because how we all act as people shows who we are really. It’s actually much more than we realise! 80% of the way people communicate is through body language.
All of these aforementioned things bounce of each other and really work here in the sense that our Macbeth is likeable, he’s very chill.

Likable in what way? A likable murderer?
Our casting is relatable, I think. Martin Hoggart, our Macbeth, is great. He walked into the audition and was just himself. He really calls for sympathy in the character and that means people care about the character emotionally. This empathy allows you to question even more how much of it is destiny, how much is society, how much is the tools he is given.
A way I consider it, Macbeth’s actions and their consequences are like giving a toddler a lighter or a tiny flame and saying “don’t set anything on fire”

Tell me what’s different or unique about your method of storytelling?
We’re interested in overthrow and there’s this idea of bearing witness.
In our lives, well maybe just me, but we notice injustice and engage in our own privilege in the way we all react to injustice. We are attempting to reflect that onstage with the whole ensemble never leaving the space. They literally bear witness to every single event.
The leads, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have a lot to say but this show is an ensemble piece. Movement wise, body wise, dialogue wise. They even are breathing together.

Sounds really collaborative!
Yeah definitely. It’s helped the actors to bond, workout and discover. They have spent the whole time taking offers from each other as they process and work through the text.
The three witches in particular were vibing off each other almost immediately! Almost like a ‘psychic link’ they even started arriving at rehearsals dressed similarly. That was a really fantastic and serendipitous casting choice I think.

Okay so talk to me about The Witches, characters of fate.
The Witches play a big part in this production. They act as ‘agents of chaos’, accessing a supernatural world. They control who is speaking and who steps forward at what time to use the microphones.
The sound landscape is symphonic, percussive. Certain sounds are not heard by the others, the humans because the witches access what I like to call a ‘sonic’ realm. It’s an interesting mediator of what is natural versus super natural.

Why is Macbeth still relevant to perform and experience in 2016?
Governmental control, upheaval and revolution. Politically these things are relevant and they’re certainly questions we still think about. Who gets to be in power, and who wants that power.
I think we’ve found the relevance in August 2016 to us as a team as well as individually.

So it’s about finding the relevance specifically to your group?
Of Shakespeare? Oh yeah. I don’t have patience for a same-same Shakespeare. We have to create meaning anyway, and with Shakespeare the language is beautiful and it’s a great story.
It’s important that people watch Shakespeare I think, regardless of the time or context.

Well why should people come and watch other than the language?
Lots of blood! Hectic lighting! Gnarly soundscape!
This group of actors are what make it unique. No one will ever be able to do it like this group again.

It sounds like your process has been really rewarding
Yeah it’s definitely been a rewarding process, edifying in many ways. It’s not about seeing someone’s idea of who Macbeth is or what any of Shakespeare’s characters should look like. It comes from the individual. Acting through the character, talking through the words and images themselves.

UHT’s Macbeth + macdeath: a coda opens in the Guild Theatre on September 15th and will run till September 24th. Tickets are available here.

Claire Ferguson

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