Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsals 2

In his third blog post, Keith Dunphy (Macduff) discusses the England scene, Macduff's divided loyalty between family and country and the fight choreography.

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Time: 5 minutes, 45 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Ryan Nelson:

Hello, I’m Ryan Nelson and these are the Adopt an Actor podcasts for the 2010 production of Macbeth. I’m here with Keith Dunphy, who’s playing Macduff in this season’s production, and this is our next interview about the rehearsal process where we’re going to look towards the end of the play and where Macduff’s character ultimately goes. One of the big scenes that’s quite well known in Macbeth is the ‘England Scene’ [Act 4.3]. If you could just begin by describing exactly what happens in it, because it’s quite complex.

Keith Dunphy:

Yeah, well, in very simple terms, after the killing of Duncan, the way that I see it is that Macduff makes that decision to go to, he goes home to Fife and then he makes the decision to go to England because there is no other way out. We need someone to come back to get the tyrant out and to get a better leader for our country in place, and he is the hope, really. So I go to the English court to ask him to come home, and let’s take on this tyrant and get him out. Through that what I see is a Malcolm that’s testing me and also, which a lot of people forget, is a Malcolm that’s actually very wise and very good and he’s actually got all the attributes to lead well, to be wise, not a warrior king but actually a good, governing king.

But in this scene he tests me, with stuff about avarice, and about greed and about lust for women and all this kind of stuff, and as Macduff, I’m that through line of the actual heart and honour of serving my king and my rulers, and I’m not really taking it, even though in the scene I try to take onboard what he says, but try to come back at him with views saying, ‘You can have all these things but this is what we really need: we need you to come home’. So that’s kind of the start of the first half of it.

The second half of it, obviously the tyrant decides to kill all his family and babies which is a horrible thing for anybody, I think, to kind of take on board, especially if you have children; I don’t myself but I do know people who have, and for your kids to be slaughtered. I think, as an actor, the only thing I can really say about the second half of it is you have to put it all up to the gods, or up to fate, and you just have to go there. And that’s actually easier said than done. If that makes sense.

RN:

Yeah, I think it does. This is maybe an unfair question, but for Macduff, with that early part of the scene when he’s promising Malcolm that they can accommodate his evil, and in the later half of the scene when he discovers what’s happened to his family, do you think for him it’s always been a choice between loyalty to his country and loyalty to his family? Have those always been in conflict for him?

KD:

I think so, yeah, I think definitely there is that conflict for Macduff about loyalty to the family which is paramount, but in this particular instance, and in this time in the story that we see this man caught in this play, in a way it’s tough but he’s had to slightly put that aside. That’s what kills him in that scene, when he says “I must be from thence”, I must be from there, I could have done something if I was there. But at the moment the crazy tyrant that’s ruling the country needs to be got out. The family loyalty slightly has to go on hold to get this problem sorted, so I think that’s the conflict for him.

RN:

And then pushing ahead to when that conflict starts to be resolved, there’s obviously the final act with the confrontation and the battle. How is the fight choreography working for the final scenes?

KD:

We’re going well, I mean, this particular production we’re up against it with time, but we’re getting there, we’re getting there. We’re working really really hard, me and Elliot Cowan, playing Macbeth, to pull off quite a dynamic fight, but sometimes you just need the time, so at the moment we’re just working with the fight director and we’re coming up … we’ve just finally actually as of today I think finalised a kind of a structure, and now it’s just about repetition and about really really making those moves our own, and making it look like to the audience that it’s quite dangerous, but to us everything is quite safe. That’s the trick, that’s when it looks great I think.

RN:

Is it quite set then, almost like key movements?

KD:

Yes, there’s a section of key movements in there, like there’s one two three four five sections, so we know where we are and what we’re doing at any given point, so everything’s nice and safe, but the trick is to make it look like…

RN:

Like it’s spontaneous?

KD:

Yeah [laughs].

RN:

And with that final scene obviously… hope it’s not spoiling it, but it leads to the death of Macbeth. Do you think Malcolm will be a better king. You sort of hinted that he has some good qualities in him in the earlier scene, but I just wondered what you think will happen?

KD:

In our production I’m not quite sure, I mean, I think it’s very interesting the way our director [Lucy Bailey] works, but she’s very wonderful and bold like that, she’s still letting it up in the air slightly, I think she slightly sees Malcolm as a puppet king, in a sense that he is there but then he might slightly go down, or he needs the backing of the nobles and the thanes and stuff.

RN:

And obviously has an English army invading, or occupying.

KD:

And he has an English army occupying, and he has the forces of the English army at his will at the end of the play in a way. It’s a really hard one because as we all know from the play it’s been done a million hundred times, that some people do the stuff where you know Malcolm is at the end and there’s this kind of new regime coming in and playing it that way. I don’t think we, at the moment quite see it like that but I think we’re leaning towards that puppet king thing if that makes any sense, it’s left up in the air slightly, for you to make a decision.

RN:

Wonderful, thank you very much for today, hopefully next week if there’s time in tech week we’ll be manage to find out it’s like moving onto the stage.

KD:

Absolutely, no problem. Thank you.

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