Macbeth meets his/her Waterloo

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Macbeth director and actor speak...

Scene from MacbethOn November 14, the Drama department opens the 2012-13 season with Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the bard’s shortest and most popular tragedy. Exploring the familiar themes of ambition, corruption and violence, this production also alludes to contemporary manifestations of violence, both real and fictional. And making uWaterloo’s version yet more interesting, Macbeth is played by a woman.

Here, visiting professional director Lee Wilson and senior Drama student Andreea Hluscu, who plays the lead role, talk about the goals and challenges of the production.

Lee Wilson on the theme of violence:

"We have always lived in a violent culture; but the avenues to exploit it, and our young peoples access to it has changed immensely… What resonates in the Middle East and in Shakespeare's play is the forces around the humanity. The forces that help drive people to commit these violent acts against each other. How and what do people of power use to justify, manipulate, and sell their horrific vision for a people or country. And, most importantly, how are we sold on it over and over..."

Andreea Hluscu on being cast as Macbeth:

"I was surprised that I got cast as Macbeth!  I did audition for the role, I prepared all summer for it, reading the script over and over and trying to be really specific in my audition pieces. But part of me didn't actually think it was going to happen… Of course I would have loved to play Lady Macbeth (who wouldn't?!) but that's a role I might get another opportunity to play later on in my career, whereas I doubt I will ever get this chance to play Macbeth the man again."

Lee on gender-blind casting:

"It was very simple for me. I wanted the best actor - male or female did not matter to me. I always knew they would play Macbeth the man or Lady Macbeth the woman, but I needed actors with some emotional depth, sensitivity, and, most importantly, an affinity with the language - clear voices, clearly spoken. And if Shakespeare could have men play all of his women, why not women playing his men? The great thing is, it's amazing what lines resonate more when spoken by a female versus a man - it is a fascinating study in the differences and similarities of the genders."

Andreea on playing the character truthfully:

"I never for one second thought we would be changing Macbeth to a female character.  You build every character in rehearsals, through the text and your own interpretation. I am trying to play the character truthfully.  The fact that he is a male and I am a female has only gotten in the way in subtle things, like the way I walk on stage. Other than the small things that Lee catches in rehearsals, I haven't thought too much about the fact that I am playing a male.  I think there are more important things about the character that I am trying to portray, and if all goes according to plan, the audience will forget that I am a female."

Lee on swift action with no time to think – until the play ends:

"For me, the quick action of the play is written in the text. Shakespeare has very few long scenes in Macbeth… In an ideal production, the audience does not have time to think until the end of the play - if they think during it, then they are not listening to the story and they are not engaged. This is the toughest job for the actor. The trick is to get these young actors to trust in the swiftness of a thought - something we actually do in real life: thoughts come very quickly to us; an impulse, and then we speak. With Shakespeare many believe we have to slow it down for the audience to understand. For my money, breaking up thoughts and slowing down the text makes it impossible to follow."

Andreea on Macbeth as not pure evil:

"There is no doubt that this is a challenging role. Macbeth provides an actor with everything.  The states that he goes through and the journey he takes through the text is just gold to work with, but it is really difficult…. I hope the audience will stop seeing Macbeth as pure evil.  He is not pure evil, and that is a huge part of what I am trying to get across in this production.  I also hope the audience will be surprised."

Read the Macbeth media release for more information (PDF)