Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsals 1

In this second interview, Janet Fullerlove (Witch) talks about the back-stories of the witches, their first scene and the meeting with Macbeth upon the heath.

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Time: 7 minutes, 30 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Ryan Nelson:

Hello these are the Adopt an Actor podcasts for 2010 and I’m here with Janet Fullerlove who’s playing a witch in this season’s production of Macbeth. This is the second interview and so we’re going to look at how character is developing in the rehearsal room, particularly in the earlier parts of the play in Act 1. If I could just begin then by asking what work have you done on the character and characters of the witch? Because I guess in some way’s they’re a collective, aren’t they?

Janet Fullerlove:

They are, very much so, and we’ve decided that there’s definitely a sisterhood between the three, but at the same time we have agreed that each witch very much has her own character. And therefore we wanted to look at the back-story, and we’ve used the text to sort of find things out about them. And then we’ve had quite a deep journey really with Lucy [Bailey, director of Macbeth] giving us the freedom to explore the back-story of each of us, and we seem to have come up with three themes. And it’s all about what’s happened to these women because in those times witches were women who were outcast by society for various reasons. Sometimes reasons as simple as just the fact that they were unmarried women. So women were very much second class citizens.

And we seem to have come up with three themes for the different witches. My theme for my witch is sex, for Simone [Kirby] it’s blood and for Karen [Anderson] it’s craziness, madness. And just to elaborate on Karen’s a little bit, the reason that we’ve gone there, Karen is what some people would describe as a midget. I asked her how she would like to be described and she said ‘I like to be called a little lady’. But she is very much smaller in stature than the rest of us, and so her journey back was about that, and about the fact that in those times she would have been very outcast for being different, and for being something that people might considered really quite freaky. So she’s sort of said ‘Well, they might have even called me a witch, just for being so short, and therefore my character has gone with that, has gone to the extreme and really in some ways has these phases of going complete crazy and mad with it’.

My personal witch has seen her family and community destroyed and ended up, in order to live, she’s ended up as a ‘woman of the streets’, as it were, and uses that to get her ... exact her revenge. And we sort of looked at the pacts that these women supposedly made with the devil, and therefore got their powers, their witch powers by making pacts with the devil. You sign your soul away in order to get those powers and you can then use those for revenge. In particular with my character we thought that perhaps it was a landlord - such as Macbeth’s father - perhaps, who even wrecked her family, so it kind of makes sense then for my character to want to get and exact revenge on Macbeth.

RN:

Is creating a back-story then something that you would ordinarily do in a production, or is it something that’s very much part of this production?

JF:

I think that any production where you’ve got the luxury of time to do it, it makes absolute sense to do it; it doesn’t always happen. And I think with something like Shakespeare it’s important to understand where you’ve come from, who you are. And it’s there in the text if you look for it, there are clues. Of course, everybody’s going to have their own interpretation, but I think that yes, it’s very definitely important with this kind of work.

RN:

We were discussing that we were going to look at Act 1, and I’m very interested in the very opening scene of the play where the three witches are together, and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the thoughts that sort of has unearthed in this production and how they seem to know about Macbeth and what themes you think that brings out?

JF:

Okay, well, what we’ve discussed a lot is that these three have a great sense of mischief. And we want them to be scary! We really do want to scare people, we want people to find us scary. And we take enormous pleasure in scaring people. That’s part of the character of it. Certainly when we meet at the beginning, we meet with great purpose. We are there with an idea, we know what we’re up to, we’ve singled someone out that we’re going to make mischief with, for various reasons.

And I think that then at the beginning of Act 1.3, which we’ve done a lot of work on, where my character is asked where she’s been and she talks about the sailor’s wife that she’s seen who had chestnuts in her lap, munching away on them, and she wanted one (1.3.1-10). It’s quite interesting because the language at that point is very different. It’s as though we’re having a little sisterly discussion, what have you been up to sort of thing.And then it goes into the rhyme, and we reckon that when it goes into the rhyme it’s when they’re actually spell casting, that’s when the incantations are going on, when the script is in verse form. And you can hear those changes very clearly.

Sso we actually have played that so it starts as a sort of a normal sisterhood sort of conversation and we kind of support each other and what we’ve been doing, you know, ‘What have you been up to?’, ‘I’ve been doing this’, one says ‘Killing swine’ and then the other one asks, 'Well what have you been doing?' And so then to go into the spell I sort of tell them what’s happened with the sailor’s wife, want to get revenge on her, and then between the three of us, we all three of us work on it together.

RN:

And then I guess that scene progresses from the spell with the sailor’s wife, to the meeting with Macbeth.

JF:

Yes.

RN:

How is that working out so far?

JF:

Meeting with Macbeth, it’s a wonderful moment. My line, “All hail Macbeth” (1.3.48), the very fact that I know his name and say it, hits him hard, and Elliot [Cowan, Macbeth] reflects that in the way he reacts to that, and again reacts to the Thane of Cawdor line, and then when Karen finally says the word "King”, “he shalt be King”, (1.3.50) his reaction is almost violent, it’s like somebody punching him in the stomach, and we’re playing with that, we’re using laughter as well, which is quite sinister, I like that, and that kind of makes it really evil to laugh at the fact that we’re playing with; we’re taunting, we’ve got him then, we’ve got him, we’ve hooked him.

RN:

And how does Banquo then respond to it, because there’s obviously that interesting double act going on…

JF:

Yes, and in a way we kind of thought ... the way it’s written it’s almost as though we weren’t expecting Banquo, we’ve talked about ‘There. We’re going to the heath. There to meet with Macbeth’. We don’t go 'There to meet with Macbeth and Banquo’. So when Banquo comes in he kind of scuppers our plans a little bit. And we sort of ignore him. And so he’s sort of going ‘Why are you talking to him? Talk to me a bit as well. What about me?' You can see the future, tell me about my future’, as it were. And eventually we sort of go, ‘Oh yeah, okay, well. Hail. Lesser than Macbeth, and greater’, that sort of thing, you know, give him a little bit of attention. But also it’s more of a clue for Macbeth as to what’s going to happen. But he’s taken the bait by then, and we go off, leaving them sort of bewitched, which is rather nice.

RN:

Hopefully we’ll find out more about Act 4 and the apparitions when we talk next week and the exciting things that you’re doing with that.

JF:

Yes.

RN:

Thank you very much.

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