Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 6

This is Eve's final blog post. This week she discusses the experience of play Lady Macbeth: how she gets into character, and the choices she made in her performance.

Transcript of Podcast

Lady Macbeth

One of the hardest questions to be asked as an actor is ‘how do you get into character?’ because there is no clear answer. It is the job of an actor to try to get inside the skin of his character and there is no simple formula for this. Every play I have done has been different because the circumstances have been different – the cast, the director, the kind of play, the kind of part.

I think it's very important to think of Lady Macbeth as a ‘person’ rather than a ‘character’. She is not a ‘type’, and therefore she is not predictable, in the same way that a ‘person’ is not predictable. People can be hundreds of different things at the same time – vulnerable, strong, manipulative, naïve, angry, passionate or frightened. When I first started thinking about this part, I read a book called The Masks of Macbeth. It described many different productions and various actresses’ portrayals of Lady Macbeth. The book had a list, nearly four pages long, of adjectives that could be applied to her, which ranged from ‘tigress’ to ‘small bird’, ‘child’, ‘woman’, ‘villainess’ and victim. Clearly she is a rich and complex character and it is possible for her to be any of those things at one time. There is no ‘set’ character that you can easily find and step into.

Every time we rehearsed the play I felt different – sometimes in control of events, sometimes terrified, sometimes more powerful than Macbeth, sometime weaker than him.

I think that when you are playing parts as well written and real as those in Macbeth, you can only make choices based on who you are and what your own experience has been. If I were playing Lady Macbeth when I was fifty, I would have very different feelings about her than those I have now – I’d make sense of her actions in different ways. To be playing her as someone young (I’m 29) means that she is at the beginning of her life, when everything is possible.

Lady Macbeth is optimistic for her future, and her ambition comes from the feeling that anything is possible. I think it is a positive, forward thinking energy. At the age of fifty, I might be looking back on my life, and the decision to murder might be informed by other feelings – regret, resentment, bitterness or a sense of deserving something more from life.

These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as s/he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his/her own interpretations and change frequently as the rehearsal and performance process progresses.

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