Witches and prophecies and murder – oh my!
The story of Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, is one that many are familiar with. A tale of greed, deception, and power, the Shakespeare play has been a favourite in both the theatre and cinema for centuries. The title character is plagued with a hamartia – unable to see past his thirst for the crown, he and his wife set out on a blood-soaked mission to rule Scotland.
With direction by Glenn Elston, The Australian Shakespeare Company are set to tackle this beast of a play in Melbourne’s Royal Botanical Gardens, bringing a new, dark take on the classic tragedy.
Glenn is a producer, director, writer, and current Artistic Director of the Australian Shakespeare Company. Some of his past credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, Richard III, Henry IV Pt 1, Hamlet, The Comedy of Errors, Macbeth and As You Like It. He has also produced and directed internationally in London’s Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.
With Macbeth set to open next week, we had a chat to Glenn about how and why this 400 year old play has endured the test of time.
We did it a couple of years ago and we just enjoyed it so much. And we found it was popular with the audience. Plus, we thought it was a nice match with [A Midsummer Night’s] Dream, to get to kind of bookend. Dream is that one end of the spectrum and Macbeth the other. We thought, “well, that that makes for an interesting season!” [chuckles]
The play was written over 400 years ago – why do you think that audiences still love it?
There’s something wonderfully appealing, and I think it’s the supernatural. I think everyone has some kind of attitude or interest or position on the supernatural. And the horror of war, and Lady Macbeth who is so extreme… I think it’s just a theatrical thriller and they are live on stage! It’s not on film, it’s there in front of you, and I think I think people find that very appealing. With Macbeth as well, It’s kind of interesting with what we’ve been seeing overseas. You know, tyrants running mad and letting greed get into their heads? It’s it’s happening right around us. The show is like a warning, you need to just step back and take a good look at the world and what’s going on.
Unlike some of the other shows in ASC’s season, Macbeth isn’t usually seen outside of a traditional theatre space. Has it been more challenging to work in the gardens?
It’s always more challenging. Yeah, it doesn’t get any easier. There’s a certainty, you know, when you’re doing something within four walls, it’s just easier than doing it outdoors where you’ve got all the elements to deal with. You’ve got to take it outside and build it all. But then that’s the appeal, I mean, the appeal is to be out in the elements and the appeal is to be watching a piece of theatre. You’re feeling what [the actors] are feeling. Like if there’s spits of rain, if the wind changes, if it changes temperature, you’re feeling it. The actors are feeling it. It really does build a sense of oneness. And that makes it exciting, and really makes the audience feel like they’re really participating in the same journey that the actors are on. And that’s what’s exciting about theatre, is that we’ve got the ability to transport people.
Macbeth opens at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens on January 30th until March 6th.
For more information, please visit the Australian Shakespeare Company website.