Shakespeare's Globe

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“How does she become the woman we see in the sleepwalking scene?”
Samantha talks about how she ‘performed’ speeches from the play when she was 9 in her bedroom, the richness of the imagery in the play, and the origins of Lady Macbeth’s ambition.

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Time: 6 minutes 35 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Phil Brooks:

Hello and welcome to the 2013 Adopt an Actor podcast series. My name is Phil Brooks and I’m talking to Samantha Spiro who is playing Lady Macbeth in the upcoming Globe production of Macbeth.

How familiar were you with the play?

Samantha Spiro:

I’ve seen it quite a few times. It’s always been my favourite, as far as – not necessarily sitting down and studying it – but having thoughts, it’s swum around in my head a fair amount. But certainly as far as playing Lady Macbeth was concerned, it wasn’t really on my radar for many years. But in fact my friend, my oldest friend, we were best friends since I was 9, reminded me when I got the job, said ‘Isn’t that funny. It’s like when you used to do Lady Macbeth speeches to me in your bedroom when you were 9!’ Which I had completely forgotten. And then I think I had a thirty year absence from wanting to play it – not quite thirty – and here we are again. And it really did leave me completely. I don’t think in my twenties, or even in my thirties, that it was a part that I yearned to play. But over the last couple of years it sort of crept up.

PB:

So you read the play obviously before you started rehearsals and when you were young, so you’re quite familiar with it.

SS:

Yeah, I would say I’m familiar, without going into the details – of course, when you get into rehearsal, there’s the nitty gritty.

PB:

So what were your initial impressions of the play?

SS:

Well of course, you always, when you start on journey, or just as you’re just to embark on this adventure, it’s the play from your character’s point of view. And I suppose my first impressions were mostly concerned with their relationship – with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s relationship – and what happens to her really, and how much she is to blame. And the questions were: how much did they know about what the play was going to be about before the play starts, and how instrumental is she, really. I suppose those were the initial thoughts and questions that I had. And then how does she become the woman that we see in the sleepwalking scene. So it’s just the sort of rough outline of her journey, but certainly my initial feelings about the play are; it’s a hard play to crack, it’s one of those plays that can be done quite badly. But it fascinates, it’s the richness of the imagery that stands out, and the language is just unbelievably beautiful and seductive. I suppose wanting to find out who the woman is behind the ‘monster’. And for me, my initial thoughts on that are that it’s very much connected with her and motherhood and the death of a baby. And the depression that surrounds that, and where the ambition, and who the ambition is for, what that is replacing in her life. I suppose those are the initial thoughts.

PB:

The whole, did she have a child, didn’t she have a child…

SS:

Those are the big questions, and I feel very firmly that there was a child, and that the child died. Because I think that’s a much more obvious springboard to the woman that wants to commit these atrocities. She’s clearly unhinged; you know you don’t just suddenly go from being [a] lovely, happy married couple to going ‘Come on let’s kill the king’.  For me it has to be from a point of view of despair, which makes most sense, and that they both feel guilt and that they both owe each other something and that’s where it springs from I think.

PB:

Have you performed Shakespeare before?

SS:

I have! Very luckily here last year in Taming of the Shrew playing Kate, which was an incredibly happy experience.  I’ve done A Midsummer Night’s Dream probably about six times playing everything from Peaseblossum to Hermia, Snug the Joiner, Titania, First Fairy! And As You Like It playing Celia, Phoebe and Audrey. Maria in Twelfth Night. Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. And this play was my first job after drama school – I played Third Witch – so I’ve done a fair amount. But certainly out of the tragic roles, this is the first really I suppose.  They’ve tended to be more of the comic roles.

PB:

Obviously you’ve performed at the Globe before in Taming of the Shrew, how is it being back?

SS:

It is wonderful to be back, it really is. I left the building at the end of the party [at] the end of the season and thought ‘Oh god, when am I- I wonder if I will ever get the opportunity to come back here and what would it be in, what would it be playing. And I certainly didn’t think I would be back a year later so I feel really really lucky and it is heaven to be back. Because the other overriding feeling I had last year was this is where you want to be performing Shakespeare, it would be very very hard I think to go on and perform it anywhere else after experiencing this. So I feel very very lucky. It probably will be it then after this year!

PB:

You’ll be back next year and be like ‘Remember last year when I said…’

SS:

I know!

PB:

What preparation do you do for a role before the rehearsals start?

SS:

Well I read it a lot really. And try to sort of let it happen by osmosis I think. Just sort of keep reading it and drip drip drip- questions more than anything else seem to occur. Because I don’t want to answering too much before you can share those questions with the director, and the people you’re playing with. So it’s mainly reading it, I also this time I read up on other peoples experiences of playing the part, which was really interesting. I haven’t really done that so much before, but one of the books I’ve got at home, ‘Clamorous Voices’, which is a really wonderful book actually. And in ‘Clamorous Voices’ – it’s Sinead Cusack’s story of playing Lady Macbeth. Because of course it is such a famous role, and some of the actresses that are my heroes played it, and so it was really interesting reading that. And I got a sort of booklet that Harriet Walter wrote of her experience of playing Lady Macbeth, and they were absolutely poles apart, but both equally brilliant and really exciting to read. So as far as getting prepared for the role, they were useful, but it mainly just comes down to getting into the story of the play. 

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