In her second blog post, Laura Rogers (Lady Macbeth) explores Lady Macbeth's marriage to Macbeth, whether Lady Macbeth can be described as 'evil' and bringing physicality into the role.
Time: 13 minutes, 27 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
What relationships in the play are important to your character?
Well, mainly Macbeth – most of my scenes are with him. That was an important relationship to establish, obviously, as they’ve got to be in cahoots all the way through, apart from as the plans starts to break down after the murder of Duncan. But it’s very much got to be a pact between the two of them, and they are equals.
And then, well obviously I have a relationship with Duncan. There is a relationship with him in that I meet him at the banquet and beforehand, and obviously he has this high status, and I am very charming towards him. We don’t want to give him any ideas that there’s anything amiss ... !
Do you know him before?
Well, these are things that we’ve been discussing in rehearsals. I think obviously I’d known him as the king, but I think we discussed that he would have been at our wedding and knew me as a child and was very good friends with perhaps my father, who we don’t hear about in the play. This is the back story we’ve invented; he’s known me and seen me grow up. Perhaps I don’t know him as well as he knows me, but obviously being the king, we all know him and have always respected him and liked him which is why it’s so evil, really, deciding to get rid of him now just in order to gain what they want.
And the gentlewoman – obviously there’d be a relationship there because she would be at times the only confidant I suppose, when Macbeth’s away fighting wars and things like that. But we only see her at the end and we haven’t touched upon that last scene yet.
You don’t interact with her, do you?
No, no, because that’s when I ... have gone mad! So really I think the main relationship is with Macbeth.
Is it an intense marriage?
Very much so, as we’re finding out at the moment. I’m covered in bruises because it’s … it’s very physical, physically violent at the moment and also, because we’ve got Javier [de Frutos] who’s an amazing choreographer on board, we’ve started to stylise certain bits.
We’re not allowed to talk about them in dance terms, but of course at the beginning they’re dance movements which then, as we go along, we’ll make them more fluid and they’ll just become part of the action as opposed to being dance-y. But it’s like anything else, you have to split these things up and then learn them step by step so that’s what we were doing yesterday, and things do get quite physical, and at some points aggressive, but it’s just like elbows and knees get bashed about a bit.
But no, their relationship is incredibly intense because I think they’re the other half to each other. They always confide in each other about everything and they’re the only two that are involved in their plan – nobody else knows about it – so they rely on each other, he relies on me to spur him on, to come up with parts of the plan and put everything in order and to give him to courage to do it; and I rely on him as my rock, and being the brawn behind it all. So it’s very much they can’t do it without the other one and it’s incredibly passionate, it’s a passionate marriage and with that passion comes arguments and comes … they know how to push each other’s buttons, they know what’s going to make the other person give in.
How would you describe Lady Macbeth this far in? Is she evil or … ?
I don’t like to think of her as being evil because I don’t think that’s really very beneficial to you to just go ahead and think ‘Oh, she’s just evil'. But obviously certain things she says and her actions would be considered evil, because obviously I’m not condoning the things she does within the play! But I think you have to put it into perspective and try and understand where she’s coming from.
When we had a lecture about Macbeth and about that sort of time, it was considered evil and sinful for a woman to have any ambition at all, whereas these days, it’s encouraged; then it was looked upon as being bad. And she is incredibly ambitious. She wants her husband to have what she thinks he deserves, which is to become king. She wants to be queen. He’s the most powerful man and he’s got the most powerful woman, and together they are this tour de force and she basically doesn’t want anything to get in the way of that. Plus he’s told her that he’s met these “weird sisters” (1.5.8) who have said that he’s going to become king. They’ve already got it right that he’s Thane of Glamis and he’s Thane of Cawdor, and so there’s all this potential there, she’s thinking ‘How can it happen? How can we do it quicker?’
I suppose as far as she’s concerned he’s a warrior. He goes off and kills people in war, in battle all the time, and what’s the difference when it comes to killing one man in order to get what he wants, when he’s doing it all the time on the battlefield? I don’t think she’s really thought anything through. I think she just thinks ‘If we do that and that, it will equal that’, and she’s just ruthless. I mean, who knows what could have happened in her past? Anything that’s made her into this person that she wants these things – that she’s materialistic, that she’s ambitious, that she wants the best, biggest achievement that she can possibly see.
And he, at the same time, it’s like they’ve talked about it. We imagine these little fantasies that you might have when you’re lying in bed together and you’re just thinking, ‘Wouldn’t that be nice? How wonderful!’ For an actor it might be ‘Can you imagine if we won an Oscar, or, if we got that part in that amazing film, or that amazing play? And all we’d have to do to get that was to just get rid of the leading actress. Well, that’s fine!” You know, obviously you wouldn’t go as far as killing them off! But you could talk about it, have these little fantasies and I think that’s what they’ve been doing. He’s been in on it and he’s been excited, and he’s been spurring her one, she’s been spurring him on and suddenly …. it happens. And as soon as it happens, everything starts to unravel and fall apart, and the guilt takes over I think.
We’re playing it as well… being quite young as Lady Macbeth and a Macbeth would normally be cast … there’s a sort of naivety; they don’t realise quite what it is they’re embarking on. So yes, evil things, evil deeds come out of this huge ambition, and this drive and this need to feel like they’ve achieved everything they can possibly achieve. And they are ruthless and will stop at nothing to get that but… things after that start going incredibly wrong and he starts going, needing to kill more people, more people because of his paranoia, and they basically get destroyed by their own guilt and I think pure evil, (if you can imagine that exists), there wouldn’t be the guilt thing afterwards, it’d just be a cold blooded killing and then move on.
Do you think she’s guilty pretty much straight afterwards? That’s what you seemed to be suggesting last week, that even by that Banquo scene before the feast, the one where she asks if he’s still in court, that she may be getting a bit nervous?
I think she’s nervous, from the outset, I think she’s nervous ... we’ve just been rehearsing the first banquet scene before they kill Duncan – and I think she’s on edge then. She’s sort of galvanising herself and it’s full of adrenaline, but it’s very tense as well and Macbeth’s doubting whether he can do it or not and that’s the worst thing for her, because as long as he’s alright and he’s there and he’s in the plan then it’s fine, but as soon as he starts to waver, she starts to. You know, I think she keeps pushing him but I think inside she’s … she has no idea what he’s entertaining and then ...
I don’t know, perhaps, the guilt comes to Macbeth quicker, I think, than to Lady Macbeth, because I don’t think it’s registered to her immediately. I think the first time it registers is when she has to go and put the daggers back and seize the dead body, I think; that’s the first time it sort of shocks her because it makes it real. And I think then she just goes into ‘Okay, what do we do next?’ mode. But I think actually from then on it starts to eat away at her, and the more she see’s that it’s destroying him, the more it destroys her too.
The things is I don’t know whether … it’s difficult to know whether you’re supposed to sympathise. It’s very hard to sympathise with her, because she says really evil things and she really manipulates Macbeth by saying that she would easily be able to breastfeed a child and then, in the same moment, dash the brains out of it. You know, for a woman, for a young woman to say that is quite… that’s quite a disgusting thing to say, it’s a shocking image, and it’s appalling and you don’t expect that to come out of, you know, of a woman, or a young woman or anyone really. I don’t know if it’s sympathy I want, I don’t think sympathy is the right word, but I want maybe for some members of the audience to be able to go ‘Well, I don’t condone what she did, but there’s part of me that can understand that ambition, or that madness or what that might do to you. I can sort of understand it’. I don’t want to be a completely alien…
No, you don’t want to be a caricature of evil, do you?
And you pay a high price for it.
Okay. I wish this was a video podcast. If people could have seen the way that the expressions on your face and your hand gestured changed through that … that was fantastic. Okay, we’ve talked about back-story. We’ve almost touched on this because you’ve been talking about how physical it’s been in the last week or so: how do you use your body language and your physicality to help tell the story?
It’s a very … we’re going down the road (well, it’s written anyway), it’s a very passionate relationship that they have, and so I think she … it’s not set in stone yet, we’re still playing with things, but she definitely uses her body and her sexuality in a way to make him do things, to win him over. So it’s very, … there’s lots of close, tactile moments and then almost animal-type moments where they’re just basically at the end of their tether with each other and having a real fist fight, you know, lashing out at each other from desperation and from passion and from frustration, really.
There’s also, in the play, a curtain that’s being used. That’s for the first scene where he’s coming home, at the moment we’re trying it with the curtains drawn. I’ve got my back to the curtain and you just see him behind the curtain, it’s like a gauze. That’s the first time that I’ve seen him since he’s come back, and then he lifts me up and… it’s lot of scrabbling around within the curtain and grabbing at the curtain and so it looks almost like a bedroom image and … there’s lots of physicality in it so far.
There’s also in the banquet there’s sort of, the men do a sort of ritual song and movement thing, routine, I’m not allowed to use the word dance, because it’s not a dance! And… yeah, it’s very important the physicality of it, particularly for my character I think, because she does need to use that in order to convince him, and egg him on. But we haven’t… because obviously the words are just as important, or more important, and the words do a lot of the work themselves, there’s sort of a huge physicality within what she say, so it’s about marrying the two things and hopefully not detracting from the words with movement and vice versa. So we’re still playing with that.
Thank you ever so much!