Macbeth at the Albery - The Inside Story

Last Update: 13 November 2002

"Be careful what you wish for": An interview with the Director

Edward Hall is the director of Macbeth at the Albery. He has also directed Julius Caesar and Henry V for the RSC and Rose Rage (an adaptation of Henry VI) for "Propeller", his all-male company

What have you discovered about the play during rehearsal?
It's a play about the rights and wrongs of one human being murdering another and the reason it is so disturbing is that the central character who commits a murder is acutely aware of the nature of his act. It's not that an evil man commits an evil act it's that a good man racked with guilt commits an evil act. His attitude to what he does is exactly the same as yours or mine might be. If you think about this in terms of the modern day the media demonises figures such as Milosevic, Saddam Hussein or Mugabe and what we see is a tyrant but in Macbeth the audience sees the man; we get under his skin.

How do you see the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?
They have an addictive relationship at the beginning of the play. She is ferociously ambitious for her husband. He is also ambitious but less so because he enjoys the plaudits of his peers. The fact that he is capable of getting to the top but doesn't quite have the desire (or "illness that should attend" his ambition) frustrates Lady Macbeth. His indecisiveness provokes extreme behaviour in her which provokes extreme behaviour in him so the two of them feed each other and together they do the deed. Once that's done the world is changed for both of them. Macbeth knows instinctively before the murder that it won't end with Duncan (he's already talking about the Prince of Cumberland as a step "on which I must fall down or else o’erleap") but Lady Macbeth deludes herself that with one blow it'll all be finished.

How do you see the supernatural side to the play?
The supernatural side of the play might retitle it "Be careful what you wish for" because all that the Weird Sisters ever do (Shakespeare calls them Weird Sisters by the way, he never calls them witches) is hold a mirror up to people and say "this is what could happen" but it's up to the person whether it does or not, free will is absolutely the order of the day. After Duncan's murder Macbeth becomes obsessed with the Weird Sisters' prophesies, he starts to associate supernatural powers and witchcraft with the darker side of his own nature. He embraces that subconscious world. His wife on the other hand, has buried her subconscious so deeply that it only surfaces when she sleepwalks. Whenever her husband begins to talk about witchcraft, murder and topics associated with their crime it unhinges her. As the play goes on Macbeth is mixing his conscious life with his subconscious and the Weird Sisters become like a drug for him - the more you get, the better you feel, the more you want...

Are you focusing on a domestic or a political tragedy?
It is in many senses a domestic play but it does have bigger political points to make. It is based on an eleventh century Scottish myth (a crude, violent world) yet the tale is told in a sophisticated fashion. At the heart of the play there is the character of the Porter who talks about "equivocation" and our ability to see things from two different perspectives, to say a truth can be one thing one moment but the opposite may also be true if it suits us. The characters around Macbeth by implication condone and support the new regime after the murder (they don't act till very late on). An atmosphere of mistrust poisons relationships and no one knows who is on whose side in this "spies-on-spies" culture. The difficulty they have is looking after themselves and also doing what ought to be done which is to fight against tyranny.

Directors and Designers


Part Two: Actors and Acting


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