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RSS Rehearsal

“Banqou goes on baiting the Witches, until they say ‘You will be the father of many kings.’ And then Banquo doesn’t speak. Which I hadn’t noticed until this morning.”
During rehearsals Billy talks about the moment in the play that makes Banquo speechless, working out what Shakespeare really meant, and development of the relationship between Banqou and Lady Macbeth.

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Time: 9 minutes 43 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Phil Brooks:

What have you been doing in rehearsals so far?

Billy Boyd:

So, we’re still at the place of doing single scenes, pretty much. At 10 o’clock we’ll do Act 1, Scene 1, for an hour, two hours, then we’ll go on to the next. And we’re still sort of doing that. On top of that we’re adding lovely people like Gyles [Block, Globe Associate for Text] , who’s helping with the text and helping out with rhythms and thoughts and really helpful stuff, and Martin [McKellan, Globe Associate for Voice], who’s helping with voice. You know, there’s a lot of people here, it’s a whole team, which is lovely. Because normally, you’re pretty much: it’s you, the actors, the director, you know . . . obviously designers  and costume etc all helping tell the story. But also on top of that here, great movement and speech and voice.

PB:

Have you done any specific work for your character looking speech, and voice, and movement.

BB:

Yeah, I came from Giles just now actually, where we were going over Macbeth and Banquo first meeting the witches, which was really interesting. You know, trying to think: what do we think Shakespeare was trying to hear when he wrote that line? It’s a lovely thing to be able to sit. Because sometimes, you know, in the playing of it, if you start playing it too soon, you can get too stuck in an idea – your idea – of what it is, before you actually sit down and say: well what is Shakespeare trying to say? There’s a lot of hints, especially in verse speaking, in where he ends the line: why is there a full stop in the middle of the that? There’s a lot of hints in there.   

PB:

Have you noted anything specific looking at your character’s language, looking at the text?

BB:

We did notice some things, not so much the language but a funny thing that Banquo does when he meets the witches, is he talks a lot. He’s almost sort of taking the mickey out of them a bit at the start. And he’s sort of shocked when Macbeth, he says ‘Good sir, why do you start; and seem to fear Things that do sound so fair?’ when the witches say he is going to be king. Because he is like ‘well why are you worried about that, that sounds great!’ And it’s just these three weird women, that’s nothing to worry about. And he goes on baiting them and slagging them until they say ‘you will be the father of many kings.’ And then Banquo doesn’t speak. Which I hadn’t noticed til this morning, he shuts up then. When the witches say something to him that would be good, he all of a sudden goes silent. Which I thought ‘ohh I hadn’t really noticed that’.

PB:

The subtle things in the text that are just starting to come out.

BB:

Yeah. As you’re like, you start off and you’re just, I think as an actor you start to get like ‘well what’s this scene, what’s the idea of this scene, what is this…

PB:

What are you trying to communicate?

BB:

Yes. Is this just a scene to get a laugh to get the audience you know, settled. Is this a scene that’s saying,  this is a noble man, what are we trying to do? And now we’re at the point where we are sitting and going, what does this little speech mean? What does this full stop- even though the full stops could be wrong when Shakespeare wrote it – but it’s nice to get really into it.

PB:

What relationships in the play are important to your character and why?

BB:

Well obviously Macbeth and Banqou are great friends. They’re the two sergeants, or captains of the army you know. And feel as if they know each other very very well. They’re great friends. In fact Emily [Eve Best, director] went so far as yesterday I think she said, this is the other great love story in the play. This friendship, this love that these two guys have for each other. So when Banquo is killed by Macbeth, that should be a huge moment in the play. That should be, now there’s no turning back for Macbeth. So that’s very important. Obviously Fleance, his son – and they don’t have much together. I think it’s really important, and I feel very very important, to show their relationship. Because that’s the only thing that Banquo does wrong. I think Banquo thinks, and is quite a noble person at the start of the play. And it’s only this thought that his sons can be kings that is his huge downfall. And I think we have to show this love he has for his son. So we only have one actor playing Fleance and Young Macduff and Donalbain. So it’s always a fight when he’s onstage as to who he is gonna be. When we arrive at Macbeth’s castle in Inverness, and Banqou has this scene – a speech about the temple-haunting martlet – as if to say there’s a lot of birds nesting on Macbeths castle. And Banquo says that he knows that where this bird nests, is always a beautiful place. So we did it where Banquo  is sort of telling that speech to the king and also to Fleance. Which is lovely, it’s like he is saying…it’s a little bit of a nature lesson for Fleance. If you see this bird nested somewhere, you’ll know that that’s a beautiful place. And then we thought maybe he should be Donalbain, in that part to set up Malcolm and Donalbain being together, the two sons of the king. But then we ended up switching it back again and he’s back to being Fleance again, which is lovely. Because then in the next scene of ‘How goes the night, boy?’ And he’s asking his son can he tell what time it is by looking at the starts. And seeing them together before that is nice. And then there’s Banquo’s relationship with the king, which seems quite relaxed, they don’t do much together. But when the king holds him, he holds him to his heart. He doesn’t hold Macbeth, but he holds Banquo, so that’s a little hint that they have a close relationship maybe. Lady Macbeth; we’re still working that out. Cause I like the idea that Banquo doesn’t really like Lady Macbeth, you know that way when your best friends married someone you’re not quite sure of!  So you always have that thing of ‘ooo I’m not quite sure if he should have married her!’ But now I’m wondering if that’s quite obvious or whether he should actually quite like her. They don’t have much together, they have a few passing remarks. But that’s an interesting one as well. His relationship with Macduff is very important, especially in our telling of the story where some of the characters have gone. So there’s a lot less characters. And me and Stuart Bowman, who’s playing Macduff, we had a good talk about we feel that they’re kind of soldiers together and Stuart feels that once Macbeth has killed Banquo that’s the last straw almost. That’s brothers in arms killing each other, it’s wrong. I could go through the rest if you want but I’ll leave it there!

PB:

It is one of those plays where you start looking at one detail and the rest of this stuff just comes out.

BB:

Yeah it’s incredible.

PB:

And you mentioned the scene where Macbeth kills Banquo, would you say there are any other scenes of moments that are particularly significant in the interpretation of your character?

BB:

Ooh, there’s quite a few, there’s some lovely moments. Obviously there’s the lovely soliloquy after Macbeth has been made king, and he has ‘Now hast it now: king. Cawdor, Glamis’. And Banquo there really shows that he’s thinking about, if the weird sisters – if the witches, what they said has come true for you, then why shouldn’t it come true for me? Why shouldn’t my sons be king? So there is a real downfall for Banquo I think. And there’s hints of it all the way through of that. I mean every – it’s such as sort of condensed play, that almost every line has some sort of character hint or some push forward for your character arc. There’s not much where you’re not speaking about internal dialogue or about how you feel about someone or what you feel about the world. There’s not much chit chat! Every line has so much weight and so much information in it.

PB:

And finally what have been the highs and lows of the first few weeks of rehearsals?

BB:

There’s been a lot of stuff already. Last week was feeling great. Starting to come off the book, feeling like you had a good grip on things. This week for me feels a bit like it’s all falling apart.  But I think that’s just as you realise little mistakes you’re making, going back to the text and saying ‘Oh. I’m saying but there instead of if, so every time I say that speech now I’ve got but instead of if so it throws the whole speech as I try and remember it the correct way now. So theres a few things that are kind of like eugh. But I think this weekend, that will get sorted, and then next week hopefully we start putting it all together.

PB:

Exciting.

BB:

Very exciting!

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Comments

TJ, Boise ID

It is like peeling an onion, every time you get a good grasp of a theme in this play it exposes another idea. Glad an actor the caliber of Billy has the role and digs so deeply into the part. Thanks for sharing!

Sophie, Brussels

Exciting and thrilling! Looking forward to coming in July. Thank you for this most interesting interview, mister Billy Boyd.

Penny, Keego Harbor, MI. USA

Thank you for these interviews, I love hearing about how Billy develops and works on his roles. I wish I could see this play!

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