Macbeth at the Albery - The Inside Story

Last Update: 13 November 2002

"Directing Shakespeare": Edward Hall and his Assistant discuss the Director's job

Ben Naylor is the Assistant Director of Macbeth at the Albery and has directed the play himself four times previously. Here he discusses directing with Edward Hall  

Ed, how do you organise your rehearsal period?
On the first day I use the Designer's model box* to talk through the storyboard for the play so the actors all understand the framework we've created for telling the story. We'll read each scene working on the verse and the meaning and after we've spent quite a long time doing that then we'll start to explore gently on our feet. I'll tend to rough the whole play out very loosely in the first two weeks to find out whether the framework is strong and where it's not we throw ideas out and bring new ideas in. We'll spend the last couple of weeks working very intensively once we all know the play well enough and even in the last few days things can change dramatically.

Is this your approach Ben?
I work the other way around. I start with the blocking* before applying the psychological stuff. Ed has the production in his head but doesn't put it on the floor in rehearsal until he thinks it’s appropriate whereas I tend to say "this is how this scene needs to be, this is where our focus is" straight away. If I don't do this I find we can go up a lot of psychological avenues that interest us but ultimately don't fit into the shape of the show. Ed's more confident about pointing the show towards his framework so he let's it build more organically; I'm more of a "control freak", I suppose.

What do you see as your job Ed?
On a very basic level the Director's job is to know how to do the play just in case the actors don't come up with any ideas. If I feel I can do that then I can throw all my ideas out and welcome a new impetus. To ask an actor to rehearse well is to ask them to put their heart on the floor so you need to gain their trust. Part of that process for a director is to give the actors a good framework to start with. I'll never say "Well, I don't know what this scene's about, whose got any ideas?" Equally there's nothing worse than a Director who says "Do this, do that" because you're not really creating anything together. It's the actor's response to the text and the character which feeds my response to the play and vice versa.

Ben discuss how your approach to a particular scene might contrast with Ed's?
During rehearsals we had a debate about the banquet scene and at what point the audience "clocks" Banquo's ghost. As with any well known Shakespeare play they know the story so they're already looking for the ghost's entrance. I think it’s important that the ghost is not seen until the moment Macbeth sees it. When I directed a production of Macbeth I had everyone placed at the banquet in precisely the same way as the characters in da Vinci's picture of "The Last Supper" and worked out how to stage the ghost's entrance from that. It was a very literal interpretation but I don’t think that’s necessary for this production, the reference to The Last Supper is there however you stage the scene, and the Director has since pulled into focus the moment when the ghost appears. Ed has said to me directing is not about making things work but choosing what you want. One thing that I have learnt on this show is a greater trust in the rehearsal process.

*model box is the Designer’s scale model of the set used as a reference for the actors and Director in rehearsal and also to help the set builders

*blocking is the term used to describe where the actors are to move around the set  

Directors and Designers


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