Shakespeare's Globe

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“And I find by the scene that starts “Thou hast it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis”; that scene is the one that’s most different every night. And I think that’s all coloured by how Joe and myself play the friendship up to that point. Sometimes it’s very dark.”

In his final interview, Billy discusses performing at the Globe, how Banquo’s friendship with Macbeth continuously adapts, and his favourite moment in the play.

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Time: 6 minutes 42 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Phil Brooks:

So, how was opening night?

Billy Boyd:

As they always are: pretty scary. Great atmosphere, great energy backstage because everybody’s panicking, but really fun. And as someone said at the party afterwards (from another one of the cast), he said, “it’s just nice to get it out of the way sometimes, isn’t it?” In some ways it is because there’s so much pressure put on it. And I don’t know why because, actually, as far as it being called “press night” most of the press had been to see previews before press night anyway. So, it wasn’t like press night. But there’s still something... everything culminates on that one night that makes it quite stressful yet wonderful.

PB:

What reactions have you had from the audience? Have they been reacting in ways you’ve expected?

BB:

I think on press night it was just incredible the energy that comes after the jig at the end. People said the nearest you get to being in a rock band, as an actor, is being on this stage. And it’s kind of true. It’s the kind of reaction you’d expect from Glastonbury or something, not from a theatre. So, the reaction has been amazing. To be on this stage and get that is so wonderful, such a gift.

PB:

And, during the [other] performances, do you find that the audiences are kind of hooked or reacting in ways you’d hoped there as well?

BB:

Yeah! That and the opposite. The great thing about this theatre is to look out and see people looking at you and be able to talk to them and have these soliloquies to an actual person is wonderful. But the other side of that coin is: you look and you see someone reading a book or picking their nose and looking at the sky and being human beings. In a two and a half, three-hour play, whatever, it’s difficult to stay totally focused on. So, people do talk to each other and when you do catch someone’s eye when they are doing something else it’s quite weird. It’s quite a weird thing because you think, “wait a minute! You’re meant to be watching this play and you’re looking behind you or...”

PB:

Or just reading the script.

BB:

Reading the script to see what you got right and what you got wrong. Exactly!

PB:

How are the Globe’s distractions (like seeing the audiences and helicopters and things)? Do they affect you in any way? Do you enjoy working with those?

BB:

I really enjoy it. And personally, I think they’re a thing to enjoy and get on with and get through, unless there’s an incredibly magical moment. I’ve got a speech about the “temple-haunting martlet, this bird of summer” and whatever. And I’m still waiting for a moment when a bird will land on stage or something or be around.

PB:

Kind of swoop across?

BB:

Yeah. But, things like helicopters and all that I think it’s a thing just to... I think a helicopter came in the middle of Bette Bourne’s - one of his great lines as the Porter – he made a sort of V-sign to it or something. I think that’s lovely. You know, just a moment like that. But I think if we notice it too much, it becomes too much a thing of the play that’s there’s helicopters and airplanes. We know that. That’s fine. But, when it’s a nice moment like what Bette did, that’s great. But I don’t think we should point out too much.

PB:

How is your character changing and developing, if he is at all?

BB:

He is! At the moment, there’s a sort of spectrum of where he sits in each scene and how that colours... And I find by the scene that starts with “Thou hast it nowkingCawdor, Glamis,” you know, when Banquo says that Macbeth has everything that the weird women... that scene is the one that’s most different every night. And I think that’s all coloured by how Joe [Joseph Millson, Macbeth] and myself play the friendship up to that point. So, sometimes it’s very dark. I find myself being very dark with Joe, playing a sort of power game like “I know what you’ve done and just remember that I know.” And there’s a kind of real dark Banquo then. Or, sometimes we’re being really friendly for some reason. And it’s not a choice. It’s just things that happen with me and Joe that night that will mean that there’s more of a friendship up to that point. Then that scene, his point’s more like “look I know you’ve done it and I’m with you on this and I’ll support you.” So, the difference in that scene is the one that really throws me sometimes. And it’s not a choice.

PB:

It’s just the culmination of all the things that happen.

BB:

To that point, yeah. It just has to get played one way, you know?

PB:

Yeah. I guess it’s quite nice to have that kind of flexibility. You get so involved and things just happen.

BB:

It is! It’s great! Except sometimes. Like one time we played it really friendly and all the moments clicked and I loved how that scene went. But you can’t be grasping for that because you’ll never get it. Or it wouldn’t make any sense to what’s went before. So, as you see, it is nice but the other side to that is...

PB:

It’s like, “oh, I’m trying to remember how I did that.”

BB:

Yeah! I want to play it like that every time. Exactly.

PB:

And my final question is: what is your favourite moment in the play?

BB:

Oh, wow. Probably that scene, I think. Yeah. Because I think I’m always waiting to see what it’s going to be like. And it’s exciting to play every night. Every show, I’m excited at that scene. And I think it really informs (in my head anyway) what happens to Banquo. It’s almost like he signs his own death warrant somehow. Whatever way you play it, he’s sort of bought into Macbeth’s choices. Whether it’s to play Macbeth and play the power game and to get his sons in power, or whether it’s just to say, “I support you even though you’ve made the wrong choices.” Whatever he does in that scene, he’s signed his own death warrant. And I find that exciting.

PB:

Great. Thank you very much.

BB:

Thank you.

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