Shakespeare's Globe

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Julius D'Silva (Ross) talks to Adopt An Actor about how his schedule changes now that Macbeth is in performance, Ross's motivation in the banquet scene (Act 3 scene 4) and how far his character is dictated by both Shakespeare's text and his own interpretation of the role.

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Time: 13 minutes 19 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Paul Shuter:

Here we are at four weeks into the run of performances, and how does it feel to be in the middle of the run?

Julius D’Silva:

We’ve settled in really well now, we’ve had some very nice reviews, press coverage. We’ve had some very enthusiastic audiences and we feel settled into a successful production, which is great. And got into a nice routine of coming in to work. The schedule changes, the performance days change from week to week because we’re in rep with Henry VIII and soon to be in rep with other plays as well. Our performance times change, but we feel fairly settled, bedded in, as it were, into a successful run.

PS:

Is it difficult when the performance times change?

JD:

You have to keep checking the schedule…

PS:

To make sure you come in at the right time…!

JD:

Yeah, yeah, sort of. Real life has to adapt around your schedule. I’m never quite sure when I can get a driving lesson in, things like that. You just have to check; some days we have 1 o’clock matinees, sometimes it could be 2 o’clock, or 6pm, or 7:30pm, or, no shows on Mondays, so you have to yeah… your real life takes place around your work schedule.

PS:

And, you’ve had a few days off as well?

JD:

We had more or less a whole week off, which was good. And also we’ve got a few more days coming up as well, so it’s a nice gig in that respect, you have some time to spend with your family, and you get to see your mates, which is good, and it’s a lovely place to perform with the sun shining; on days like today it’s fantastic.

PS:

Yes, and sometimes a lot of fainters…

JD:

We’ve had a few fainters, we’ve got, as you know, this membrane which stretches out over the groundlings, and I think some of them are finding it quite difficult to have their head disembodied from their bodies in the heat under a black membrane. I think 22 one day, that’s quite a number of people. There’s a lot of blood and guts in the production as well, which doesn’t help!

PS:

It is, for those people who follow this but haven’t yet seen it, this is an incredibly gory version of Macbeth, isn’t it?

JD:

Yes, it’s very gory, there’s a man covered in blood at the beginning, sort of looks like something from hell. Various other people get nasty things done to them, and in the heat of a summer’s afternoon, it can be a bit much for the faint-hearted I think, but also for the people who love a bit of gore, it’s a real horror show.

PS:

Yes, it is, it’s almost a version of Macbeth in the beginning of a line that finishes up in horror movies, doesn’t it. I’d like to concentrate on one scene, for most of this session and talk about how that scene works and how you think it works for your character Ross. We thought that probably the scene that’s most useful to talk about is the banquet scene (Act 3, scene 4). As we go into the banquet scene, you’re probably the most prominent of the thanes in that scene.

JD:

I think so, probably, I suppose I’m the senior thane there, I’m the most recognisable perhaps. Lennox is there, Angus is there and others.

PS:

Is this Ross making a bid to become the King’s number one man?

JD:

I think this is Ross giving Macbeth the benefit of the doubt. I think this is Ross waiting to see how he turns out; it’s a little bit like the first days of a presidency, Obama or David Cameron or whoever it is – you want to see how they’re going to behave in their first few weeks, their first few months. Has it all been a dreadful mistake? Or will they come up trumps? So I’m waiting to see what he does, you know, many people perhaps, because of tanistry, I think it was called, when the previous king could bestow the inheritance of the kingdom on whoever they liked, not necessarily their blood relatives or their sons, I perhaps was one of the people at the beginning who thought that Duncan might nominate Macbeth anyway, to be the next king. So I’m waiting to see how he turns out. He’s got the benefit of the doubt probably at that moment.

PS:

And then these extraordinary things happen – he starts behaving in the most unaccountable way.

JD:

Yes, he behaves extraordinarily. He shows fits of madness, an initial fit of madness that he recovers from and says that he has a sickness that most people who know him would be used to, and he recovers slightly from that, but then again has more visions and more madness and runs around like a lunatic, frothing at the mouth and shouting at someone we can’t see.

PS:

And it’s a very dramatic moment in this production when Banquo’s ghost, another extremely bloody figure, bursts out of the feast while all the rest of you are studiously looking somewhere else.

JD:

That’s right, we have a large platter, an enormous platter of roasted meats, and fruit and legs of lamb and hams and roast fore-ribs of beef and things like that, comes on for this banquet scene. And first of all you see a hand, a bloody hand come out of it and grab Macbeth’s hand as he leans over the platter of meat, which gets a gasp from the audience, and then gradually you see him pull the ghost of Banquo, as if by magic, out of this platter of bloody meat.

PS:

Which has, of course, just been carried across the stage, so people have seen underneath it…

JD:

Yeah, you see the platter come onstage with nothing underneath it, rather like the old magic tricks, and then you see Banquo come out from the middle of it, and it’s completely unexpected, and it gets a great reaction from the audience. And then of course he’s pulled out of this platter and is live there before us, all six foot three of him, however tall Christian [Bradley] is, and there he is, stripped to the waist and covered in blood, having been pulled out of this platter.

The hard bit for the actor is, of course, not noticing him! Elliot [Cowan] is the only actor, playing Macbeth, who can see Banquo, so we have to follow each others’ eye line and we have to be concerned with Macbeth in that moment to try not to stare at this 6 foot 2 man covered in tomato ketchup, who’s wandering round the stage. But it’s a great moment and I think one of the most dramatic moments in the whole production really.

PS:

It is, and certainly the times that I’ve been in the house at that moment it is a “Whoa, where did that come from?” Particularly for the people closest to it in fact, those groundlings stuck around the front of the membrane.

JD:

That’s right, that’s right I think it’s a great idea of Lucy’s [Bailey, director of Macbeth] and of course he comes up from under a trapdoor underneath the stage, and that’s the device that’s used. But it appears as if he’s just come out of this plate of meat, it’s completely unexpected and works a treat.

PS:

And uses stage technology that was absolutely available in the first Globe.

JD:

Absolutely, absolutely, so there’s nothing too modern about it.

PS:

Other than we’ve perhaps got better washing facilities than they had.

JD:

That’s right, there’s a nice shower he can go to afterwards! But Elliot [Macbeth] plays it beautifully and obviously it’s a man beside himself when he sees the vision of the ghost of somebody he’s ordered, or knew he’d just ordered, Banquo’s been killed under his instruction.

PS:

And by the end of that scene, do you think Ross is beginning to have his doubts?

JD:

Most definitely, most definitely, I mean he’s just watched the person who he’s put his store by behaving like a raving lunatic, literally. And then we find out that Banquo’s not turned up, he’s not there, and that he’s dead and then we have, after that scene I have a very poignant moment, a scene with Lennox where I lay my cards on the table, really. And we decide to do something about it. I certainly sort of recruit him into my confidence about what I know.

PS:

So that banquet is the hinge for you?

JD:

That’s the hinge, yeah, that’s it, already my cousin has said he’s not hanging around, he’s going, someone I trust and love and I thought, well, let me give him a chance and then we see this at the banquet and I just think, well, he’s completely unhinged, and that’s moment I think. We put wheels in motion.

PS:

Yes, and then the next time we see him after the scene with Lennox, you’re committed to the new cause really.

JD:

I am committed to the new cause, I have a scene with Lady Macduff when I think that I can protect her by not giving her too much information, and of course she’s not protected. I don’t suspect Macbeth would even do something as awful as killing her and her children. And I think that I’m protecting her by not giving her too much information about where her husband has gone and why he’s left and so forth. And I think it’s sad that her husband has had to leave her at this time, but she’ll be fine. And of course she isn’t. That’s a huge mistake that I make, and as a consequence of that I have to deliver the news to Macduff that Macbeth has killed his wife and all his children. And I don’t think I ever really recover from that. That’s a huge mistake on my part.

PS:

To what extent does Shakespeare tell you where you’re going, and to what extent do you have to work it out for yourself?

JD:

I think you can work it out for yourself… with a part like Ross you can work it out for yourself and there was a time in rehearsals when we were thinking that Ross is completely Macbeth’s man, and is toeing the party line and at one point we thought we might do the scene where I tell Lady Macduff not to worry too much about things, and then I actually let the murderers into the house myself, in a sort of apparatchik , Machiavellian way if you like, that I’m serving my own ends, and then when Macbeth becomes weaker I go and serve the English as well, so that at the end of the play you don’t have a happy ending, you have this character Ross who will side with anyone for his own benefit. And that was one way we thought about doing it. We decided not to, we decided there wasn’t enough evidence, perhaps, that Shakespeare’s given us to play Ross like that. And we decided to go with the moral dilemma good guy.

I think he gives you a fairly good outline, but there’s always room to invest your own ideas, I think. There are definite clues. Something else about Ross that I thought Shakespeare was telling me was that we don’t know him, every time he comes onstage people say “who is this? I don’t know him?” “My countryman, but I know him not” and I thought that was a sort of subtext for “I don’t know whether to trust him or not, I don’t know whose side he’s on, he’s one of those people who you can never know whose side he’s on or not. That was one way of interpreting that, and we’ve decided not to play that, but during rehearsals I thought about that but they’re open, it’s open to interpretation, as all of the roles. Some parts he give much more specific instruction to in the way that it’s written, but parts like Ross you could play either way really, I think.

PS:

That’s fascinating, thank you very much. And perhaps just to finish, what does this Adopt an Actor process feel like?

JD:

It feels really interesting, I mean I’ve really enjoyed being able to talk to you about aspects of my job, it certainly helped me, I go away from my interviews and think “my goodness, yes, maybe I could try a bit more of that, or use that a bit more”. So it’s been very interesting, but I would very much like to hear from any of the people who’ve been listening to this, particularly the teachers and university guys, to have some sort of feedback from you as to whether it’s been of any use to you, and whether we could further a professional relationship of some sort. And I’d really like to hear from you, because otherwise it’s just you hearing me, and the best way to contact would be at my email address, which is julius1968@btinternet.com. And I’d really like to hear from you to know what the interviews have been like for you and how you’ve find them useful.

PS:

Yes, I guess we could discover I’ve been asking you the wrong questions all along!

JD:

Maybe, maybe!

PS:

Okay. Julius, thanks very much.

JD:

Thank you very much.

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