Monthly Archives: July 2014

STC’s Macbeth: More Rave Reviews, New Productions Photos; Hobbit: BOFA Teaser Finally Debuts

The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies Teaser Finally Debuts Online

Since Warner Bros and Peter Jackson were kind enough to release the new Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies teaser on PST time instead of New Zealand time,  I was able to arrange enough time to be on hand as it debuted… so here it is fresh:


That is nicely magisterial and elegiac without dropping too many spoilers about who lives and who dies. (I made the mistake of watching TheOneRing.net’s Hobbit panel which made very plausible guesses on this subject– not blaming them, as they warned us. Yes, I’m aware the book has been around for some 70-odd years, but PJ and co have never been afraid to change things up… anyhow, they’ve invented some characters and integrated others not originally part of this story.) We know Gandalf is safe despite his dire condition here… because even when Gandalf actually dies it’s not a permanent condition.

And from this I’m guessing Galadriel again upstages Elrond and the other members of The White Council, despite not being part of the original novel. 😉 I’m also guessing The White Council’s big moment will be early in the film (as Gandalf was in immediate peril at the end of The Desolation of Smaug) rather than as part of the titular conflict. Would love to be wrong about that and see more of those characters than expected, but I still don’t think it’s likely. I’m sure PJ opted to exclude any Elrond footage from the teaser to give an accurate sense of which characters dominate the storyline rather than which are “fan favorites”, though I’m not sure why Smaug isn’t in more of this. Maybe he’s part of the SFX excuse PJ provided for not having the full trailer available until this fall. Alas, the blooper reel described from the Comic Con Hall H panel remains under wraps for now. If it isn’t at least a DVD/Blu-Ray extra at some point, though, Smaug’s vengeance will seem piddling compared to mine 😉

Here, too, is the Comic Con Hall H panel for The Hobbit: BOFA from Saturday:


MagicInTheNumbers viaYouTube

You can watch The following other cast video interviews from Comic Con with Evangeline Lily (IGN, Clevver Movies), Benedict Cumberbatch (HitFix, HitFix 2 ), Cate Blanchett (HitFix ), Luke Evans (Super Comic Fun Time, HitFix) Bloom, Evans, Serkis and Pace (IGN), Bloom and Lilly (HitFix), Pace and Cumberbatch (IGN), Pace and Blanchett (Super Comic Fun Time). I’m sure I’ve missed a few. 😉

Apparently Warner has taken all the jibes about “Wait… who’s the TITLE CHARACTER of these movies again?” to heart, as Bilbo is front and center in the latest Battle of Five Armies promo poster.

Macbeth Reviews and Production  Photos

The reviews for Macbeth continue to be very positive, particularly in assessing Hugo Weaving’s performance, though some critics have specific quibbles about some aspects of the staging and/or other cast members’ interpretations. But that negative review from Limelight continues to be a bilious outlier, thankfully. It’s to be expected that a play this famous, which many critics and theatergoers will have read and seen staged in different ways– many different ways in some cases–  has to battle against everyone’s preconceptions about what certain characters should be, in addition to a jadedness in judging it against whatever previous productions one has seen.  Some critical comments seem unfair in that respect. here’s a difference between a performance not working and it simply failing to adhere to one’s preconceptions, though that’s a fine line. I admit I can be guilty of that myself, as I tend to be more dismissive of men in their 40s playing Hamlet, who’s supposed to be 25 at most. 😉  (Yes, I completely understand that most actors aren’t yet at the peak of their powers at 25.)

This production is as much about the act of performing the play as it is about the plot and characters, so I understand the motivation behind the “slow” start (which begins as a kind of table read as actors dissolve into their roles in full view of the audience) and the ending where Hugo breaks character and walks off after his death scene rather than going through the traditional stage blackout followed by genteel curtain calls. I’d have to see the production to know how well any of this actually works, or how I’d respond to it, so I’m not going to dismiss any criticism out of hand. But I get tired of the whole “some parts of the audience didn’t seem to get it” line. Stage directors need to find a specific creative reason to stage and reinterpret a play this famous and frequently-mounted, and this needn’t include soft-pedaling to the least common denominator. (I saw an actor pretty much ruin a local production of Macbeth last year by trying to perform the character as a variation on Walter White from Breaking Bad. Now, I own the mini-oil-drum Blu-Ray set of that series, but that’s taking trend-hopping too far. Also, he failed to understand the nuances of either Macbeth OR Walter White.) 😉 The use of pancake makeup in STC’s production photos actually looks more shocking to me that the traditional torrents of more realistic “stage blood”… so I’ll repeat my entreaties to STC to please consider filming or simulcasting this. At least shoot a little video footage for the web. (STC has made some compelling trailers for previous productions like Uncle Vanya and The Maids, and MTC promoted their 2009 production of God of Carnage with snippets of play footage.)

Anyhow, here are excerpts of the latest reviews (including Jo Litson’s full review for The Sunday Telegraph, which hasn’t yet been posted online) interspersed with the latest bunch of Brett Boardman’s production photos. (Thanks to STC for adding several of these to their Macbeth page.) As always, WordPress readers can see the full-sized versions of images and scans by right clicking and clicking on “Open in a new tab”.

Peter Gotting, Guardian Culture Blog: “The director, Kip Williams, was also a risky choice for Andrew Upton and the Sydney Theatre Company for such a benchmark production – a relative newcomer and a resident director rather than a big name brought in from elsewhere. That name, instead, is Hugo Weaving in the title role. But their collaboration – an innovative staging and stunning central performance – turns Shakespeare’s play around literally and creatively…

Macbeth starts slow and this production particularly so… But as thunder develops and a dramatic fog builds, the show hits its stride. Williams uses the auditorium to full effect, helped by amazing light and sound design (much credit to Alice Babidge, Nick Schlieper and Max Lyandvert). Characters watch the action from random seats, Banquo meets his untimely end between two rows and, in a key speech, Macbeth moves through the auditorium row by row and line by line, the tension building as he progresses towards his subjects and the audience…

The banquet is not just frightening but frighteningly good, the long table gloriously dressed and the ensemble truly terrified as Macbeth faces Banquo’s ghost. And in the final act, the snow effect creates moments of true beauty – and tension – on stage…

Above all this stands Weaving’s faultless performance, making the most of the role in every line. Like the best Macbeths, his delivery is powerful but tragic. This king is human, most of all, and when he cries, we want to cry too. The fight scene is reimagined into a dramatic climax, with Macbeth alone on stage. Stunningly lit, this is an overwhelmingly physical portrait of a man struggling with his sword, and his demons…

John Gaden is brilliant, not just as Duncan but also as a child, the casting of an older actor a clever reference to this boy being tragically old before his time. Menzies gives clarity to various roles and Paula Arundell is a fine Banquo… But ultimately we have Weaving, who has found the role of his career. And he has done so with Williams, who should now be confirmed as a major directing talent. Together their vision is often startling but always shows the play full respect. It’s a thrilling combination.”


All production photos: Brett Boardman, via Sydney Theatre Co

Cassie Tongue, AussieTheatre.com: “In the hands of Alice Babidge the reversal of Sydney Theatre, with 900ish empty seats backgrounding the drama, is extremely successful. The empty space is overwhelming and increases the tension along that table: unsettled, we focus on the performers, so small and human against an imposing backdrop. When smoke consumes the makeshift stage and obscures everything from vision, we feel panic – everything has changed, Duncan is murdered and now there is nowhere to go but down…

Director Kip Williams has brought this turned-around Macbeth to the Sydney Theatre Company after an intensely moody-energetic-youthful Romeo and Juliet last year. With this new venture he proves the gift we suspected last year: he has an eye for the moments in Shakespeare’s poetry that matter. He re-shaped Capulet and Juliet’s relationship with nothing but directorial emphasis, and here, with the would-be King and his wife, the great partners of Shakespearean horror-romance, he hones in with precision and lets us look at them anew.. That’s the benefit of a show that we all have passing familiarity with; we’re ready to be, not disoriented, as the backwards staging might suggest, but re-oriented: going back to the heart of the matter.

Lady Macbeth (Melita Jurisic) is not, necessarily, ambitious. Here she seems to grab onto Macbeth’s (Hugo Weaving) ascension with no hands because she has nothing else. Her voice breaks on that telling, sole piece of backstory – “I have given suck” – and she clutches at Macbeth, begging him, it seems, to understand the gravity of what she is saying: I would destroy my precious lost memory for you to have this thing, so we have anything at all in our lives. Lady Macbeth is never really all there – she is from the first moment we meet her suppressing a keening, a desperation that only her husband can abate…

And Macbeth, in the hands of Hugo Weaving, who is magnificent in a way that’s a reorientation in itself (his work in last year’s Waiting for Godot was good, but this is extraordinary) is ambitious, yes, but he is also a husband and has a responsibility to the happiness of his wife; one gets the sense that he agrees so readily to Duncan’s murder because his Lady talks like it has to be done like her life depends on it. It’s not her fault – it’s his choice, or their choice together – but it is so dependent upon his connection with her that there’s no room for him to process the consequences…

Macbeth is full of it, shaking with it, crying with it helplessly, in a bravura performance by Weaving, who is incapacitated by his ghosts, so much so he is almost childlike in his sobs. It’s incredibly powerful and uncomfortable and impossible to look away from. Who knew this play could still leave such an impact?..

Weaving speaks in iambs like he’s born to it, and Jurisic soars with him, a lovely demonstration of their love through language and its delivery. Arundell speaks it with a refreshing plainness, finding economy in the poetry, which further demonstrates her opposition in life and outlook to Macbeth (it’s so well done)…

And isn’t it so nice to see characters who are really in the play? No one is dismissive: their lives depend on what happens to Macbeth, to themselves, to their families, and that sense of urgency is never, ever hidden behind a surface… This production of Macbeth is not afraid to be a production of Macbeth…

This is spellbinding theatre and Weaving carries heaving fear on his shoulders at is centrepiece, but the entire company is excellent, particularly Box, Arundell and Jurisic, but all fill their multiple roles with solemnity and conviction, dive into witchiness without hesitation, give everything they have for almost two hours, without interval, with hardly any exits from stage…

ing Lear’s Cordelia couldn’t heave her heart into her mouth to save her life; these figures in Macbeth, the man and the Lady, the knights, the people who are just people who can’t stop something once its begun, even knowing the ending just gets worse and worse, couldn’t get their hearts out of their mouths if their lives depended on it… It’s exhilarating.”

Ben Nielson, ArtsHub: “While it is difficult to ignore the cavernous auditorium – an unorthodox arrangement that is as much a draw card as Hugo Weaving – it is not really the focus of the production. Instead, the text is brought to the forefront, without intrusion from set, costume or lighting. Obviously these elements are integral to the staging, but there is a clarity to director Kip Williams’ approach. Pared back and rather Brechtian, his vision is especially refreshing amid the trend to embellish and modernise classic texts. As a result, Shakespeare’s darkest tragedy really only exists through the words of the actors…

Among the hotchpotch cast, John Gaden as Duncan et al and Melita Jurisic as Lady Macbeth are particularly notable. Even Kate Box utilises her comparatively minimal role. But, try as they might to match him, Hugo Weaving’s talent is simply insurmountable. Perhaps if he were removed from the marquee, the remaining cast might have more easily met the audience’s expectations…

In the title role, Weaving provides a compelling and dynamic performance. His energy fills the surrounding void, and every motion is committed with captivating intent – from the careful punctuation of lines to the subtlest hand gesture. It is difficult to truly identify who or what Macbeth is, and so the complexity of his character becomes as chilling as the gruesome deeds he commits. To portray this, Weaving casts aside his own inhibitions in an explosive and confronting display of personality and emotion…

As Macbeth slowly unravels, the production becomes increasingly complex. The auditorium’s potential as a performance space is finally realised, the visual aesthetic becomes more intricate, and sound and light is better integrated…

Like Macbeth himself, the production possesses both strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately though, every element contributes to Williams’ undeniably clever staging. It is a relief that he so capably controls this extraordinary vehicle – his vision transcending professional inexperience, the gimmick of the performance venue and Weaving’s star power….Rating: 4 stars out of 5″CJ here: when is acting talent a “gimmick” exactly? Hugo Weaving didn’t become famous for the sake of being famous– in fact he’s done quite a bit to back away from fame as an end unto itself, which is why he’s doing Macbeth in Sydney instead of an endless procession of Marvel sequels. Some Australian critics– like many New York critics– take the provincialism and the “obscure local talent must be more pure than internationally famous talent” thing too far. Yes, some stage casting is gimmicky and fame driven, but Hugo Weaving started out as a stage actor, first and foremost. If you agree, as this critic grudgingly does, that he’s capable of these kinds of roles, his fame shouldn’t figure negatively into the review.

Also, this review and the following one take issue with the end of the play; I’ve seen enough raves to belie the notion most audience members either didn’t “get it” or didn’t like it.  I find uncomfortable laughter is a normal human reaction to a confronting or unexpected element of staging, or any development in stage or film one simply doesn’t know how to react to initially. So no, I don’t believe the play’s finale is routinely greeted with “amused snorts” as Jason Blake puts it. I’ve reacted with uncomfortable laughter to a lot of plays or films I eventually came to love or respect. I think it’s more a startle-reaction that anything else. I haven’t seen a single negative comment from an audience member (who isn’t a professional critic) about this aspect of the play.  As I said before, given the deconstructionist approach taken from the start, this ending fits, at least in an abstract sense. I guess the particulars of how Hugo exits would sway my opinion as to how well it works, but I do “get it”.

Jason Blake, The Age/Sydney Morning Herald: “Macbeth begins with the cast in their civvies (Babidge’s idea of civvies, that is, dreary as) taking places at a long table and the play starts without ceremony. Robert Menzies, Ivan Donato and Kate Box dunk their faces in a plastic tub of water to become the witches. Melita Jurisic’s Bloody Captain dribbles gore down his plastic mac while John Gaden’s Duncan holds court at the end of the table. Macbeth (Hugo Weaving) sits centre, brooding. It’s the calm before the storm…

Weaving lets rip with a “So foul and so fair a day …” that sounds like it’s escaping from a boiler. His way with Shakespeare’s prose is musical, full of colour and modulation. The conflicting impulses of kinsman and regicide are vividly displayed…

Jurisic’s Lady Macbeth is no less sonorous and in their scenes together the text sings. To ears attuned to the more downbeat way actors have been speaking Shakespeare of late, however, they run the risk of appearing overwrought or somehow “other” in a world in which everyone else acts in a more subdued range…

At the end, Macbeth lies dead among the glitter while Malcolm is ceremonially dressed in ornate doublet and white stockings, as if he’s about to star in some outmoded, grandiose production on an adjacent stage. Given he’s about to be “crown’d at Scone”, I suppose he is, in a sense. But I’d venture many in the audience will be unsure as to what the message is. ..

And what to make of the dead Macbeth getting up and presenting himself expressionless to the audience before stalking offstage? Amused snorts on opening night suggest this moment needs some fine-tuning.”


“Everybody’s a critic” 😉

I’m going to embed the print version of The Australian’s review in addition to Jo Litson’s Sunday Telegraph review to circumvent The Australian’s stingy page-view limitations. They need to implement a system like the New York Times or Sydney Morning Herald, which allow a certain number of page-views (including multiple looks at THE SAME PAGE without treating it as multiple “views”) before the requests for money start up.


Review: John McCallum for The Australian, published 27 July 2014; Photo: Brett Boardman


Review: Jo Litson for The Sunday Telegraph; Photo: Brett Boardman. Published July 26, 2014

Also: Alice Babidge spoke to Gay News Network about her vision for the production design.

In Other Hugo Weaving News

It isn’t much to go on (yet) but Netflix has bumped Mystery Road to the top of my Saved Queue, usually an indicator that a DVD release is at least scheduled in the future, though no specific date is given in this case. Though the film has opened sporadically in New Zealand and the UK (and has been a strong presence on the festival circuit for a year), the only official DVD/Blu-Ray release has been in Australia; that looks likely to change soon. Though it won’t be without quibbles from me about Well Go USA’s stingy handling of the film and unwillingness to issue it theatrically over here. (Would love to be wrong about that… there’s still time…) 😉  Also, a nice, succinct review of the film at bubblews.

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STC Macbeth: First Reviews, Production Photos; The Hobbit: BOFA at SDCC

It’s been a crazy-busy past 24 hours for Hugo Weaving fans with the official opening night of Sydney Theatre Company’s Macbeth (with most high-profile critics in attendance) followed by the San Diego Comic Con panel on The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (which featured the debut of the film’s trailer and a surprising number of cast members alongside Peter Jackson.) The trailer isn’t yet live online as I write this, but I’ll add it and any SDCC panel video that becomes available if and when this happens.  In past years, Warner Bros has posted the full panel session video after the fact minus any exclusive content (ie film shown)… the event wasn’t live-streamed, but TheOneRing.net was on hand with a fairly exhaustive “rolling updates” page as the event unfolded, including descriptions of the new teaser and cast interview highlights.

First, though…

Macbeth Opens At STC

Though STC’s Facebook hasn’t yet featured any production photos (they surely will soon), Elissa Blake and other journalists on hand at Friday’s premiere were given a selection of Brett Boardman’s fantastic, expressive shots for use in reviews. I’ll post a selection below… apologies for the differences in size; these came from several different reviews. Particular thanks to Blake for sharing high-res versions of some of the best pics along with a reprint of her Hugo Weaving interview for the Sydney Morning Herald.

All photos are by Brett Boardman. Note: WordPress readers can see full-sized versions by right-clicking, then clicking on “open in a new tab”.


L to R: Kate Box (as Macduff), Paula Arundel (as Banquo), Robert Menzies (as Rosse), John Gaden (seated, as Duncan), Eden Falk (as Malcolm)


Melita Jurisic as Lady Macbeth, Hugo Weaving as Macbeth


Falk and Arundel (probably playing Fleance and Banquo) illustrate the use of auditorium space in this production

Again, I’ll add any additional photos that become available, including better versions of those already shared if any turn up.

While there were reports of “mixed reviews” amid the early responses to the play on Twitter and other social media sites, the reviews and audience tweets have actually been very positive on the whole apart from one snippy, somewhat clueless review posted to Limelight by a critic who seems to have made up her mind before seeing the play and dispenses a lot of elitist bile against Hugo, John Gielgud (regarded by most serious scholars as one of the best Shakespearean actors of the 20th century– though his acting style and enunciation is completely different from Hugo’s in any sane person’s assessment) and Kip Williams (whose rationale for this staging has been eloquently detailed in many interviews this person seems not to have bothered with.) There has been a lot of complaint about STC’s uncomfortable stage-area seating which is unique to this production, though most reviews suggest the minor discomfort more than worth tolerating for the rewards of this production. I’ll include some quotes below, but the full reviews are very much worth reading in their entirety, so links are included.

Barry Hearst, Sydney Outsider: “After watching the STC’s new production of Macbeth I struggled to sleep last night. .. the main problem was I couldn’t stop thinking about the bold, brilliant, and occasionally baffling interpretation of Shakespeare’s dark tragedy….

The moment the audience filed into the Sydney Theatre we knew we were in for something different. The seats were on the stage, staring into the cavernous auditorium. The tiered seating would have been tight for the tall or the tubby. Any complaints were muted…

I will admit that I was a little confused by the play occasionally. With costumes light on – a crown for a king, an Elizabethan ruff for Malcolm, and not much else – it could be hard to follow characters through the acts…

At the same time it allowed for suprisingly moving moments, like seeing veteran actor John Gaden convincingly play a young son to Paula Arundell’s Lady Macduff, though she must be more than three decades his junior. That Gaden played King Duncan and Arundell played Banquo a few scenes earlier didn’t undermine this poignant moment…

These characters whirled around Macbeth as he betrayed loyalties in his pursuit for power, then saw his world fall around him. Hugo Weaving was compelling in the lead role and it was strange to find yourself sympathising with the cruel dictator he became…

Maybe it’s because there was a sense that we weren’t just watching characters. Through the set design, casting choices, and costumes we were always conscious that these were actors playing out a script. This could have created a distancing effect but instead the audience was more engaged, as they created Macbeth’s world in their minds’ eye.

As Weaving yelled, with a little more sound and fury than was necessary, that life “is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” there was a sense it wasn’t just Macbeth the character howling with rage but the actor stuck in that role, and in a way he was yelling for all of us…

In this play, placed on the stage as the audience was, we are reminded how we are all actors in our own lives. We get caught up in plays we don’t expect to, and struggle with other characters whose motives we can only guess at. Macbeth doesn’t show a way to navigate that reality, but there is a something admirable in the way he continues to battle against his doomed fate…

I think you have to see Kip Williams’ Macbeth twice. I watched it the first time and knew it was a great play and that I had not mastered it. I’ll watch it a second time because I need to. And a third time because I will want to.”   (My favorite review thusfar)


Hugo Weaving and Melita Juristic  Photo: Brett Boardman

Joy, The Buzz From Sydney: “Much has been made in the lead up to Macbeth of Kip Williams’ staging: the audience is seated in banks of bleacher-like seats on the edge of the stage while the permanent seating acts as an extended stage, where some of the play’s action takes place. This arrangement came out of a conversation between Williams and Andrew Upton about what it would be like to stage a play where the audience sat on the stage and the performance played out before an empty theatre. While this role reversal was used to good effect a handful of times, I wasn’t completely sold on it as a device. The Scottish Play features one of theatre’s most enigmatic characters and Hugo Weaving and the cast are exceptional actors, the additional subversion of the space seemed unnecessary to me. Also I didn’t find the seats set up for this performance terribly comfortable. The empty (and I imagined bigger and more comfortable seats) across the stage mocked me as I gazed at them wistfully…

Fortunately flawless performances from the cast mostly made up for any discomfort, and made for great theatre. Weaving brings a virtuoso physicality to his role that kept the audience enthralled. Melita Jurisic played multiple roles, including Lady Macbeth and she was equally compelling. The Sydney Theatre Company welcomed back John Gaden (Duncan, Old Man, Young Macduff, Apparition) and Robert Menzies (Witch, Rosse, Porter ), who are both a pleasure to watch in their respective roles. The entire cast beguiled us with intense and convincing performances which will no doubt keep the house packed for the duration. Lighting and effects were also excellent, the strobe lighting greatly enhanced Macbeth’s troubled descent.”


Fan photo of the stage area  Photo: Dame Nelly (nellevision) via Twitter/Instagram

Ben Neutze, The Daily Review: “As you enter to find your seat onstage at the beginning of Sydney Theatre Company’s Macbeth, and stare out into the vast emptiness, the ghosts of the empty 900-seat auditorium before you stare right back. Director Kip Williams and STC artistic director Andrew Upton, who together came up with the concept of staging a production in this way, were right: it’s a truly haunting image. Especially when you consider that, for many in the audience, those ghosts are, in fact, themselves. We are the past audiences of that theatre…

Drawing in Hugo Weaving in the title role, as well as a cast of veterans and relative newcomers, STC’s production sold out months in advance, due to its almighty promise. Thankfully, it delivers…

As soon as Macbeth (Hugo Weaving) reaches the “Is this a dagger which I see before me?” soliloquy, it becomes immediately clear that something more is coming. Lady Macbeth (Melita Jurisic) holds the shining dagger high at the back of the stage, while Weaving, standing mere metres from the audience, stares at his vision and delivers an intimate, haunting performance. This is the moment which Macbeth’s mental state starts to crack and he enters the nightmarish world of the play. As the night goes on, Williams pulls trick after trick from his theatrical arsenal, with stunning lighting (Nick Schlieper), terrifying sound (Max Lyandvert), mugs of fake blood, a glitter storm and plenty of white food, which gets smeared every which way. But there are no illusions here; everything is exposed…

At the same time, he’s serving Shakespeare’s (slightly condensed) text with intelligence and clarity. You’d probably get a little lost if you weren’t relatively familiar with Macbeth, as Williams makes no effort to “explain” things in the paternalistic directorial fashion that’s become all too familiar in Australian Shakespeare productions. His focus is instead on the emotional truth of the characters’ experiences…

This is a production that’s at once spectacular, gripping and almost brutally understated. Thank goodness Williams has forgone an intermission. It would be a crime to break this tension.

Weaving delivers everything that could possibly be expected of him in a muscular physical and vocal performance that simmers away before finally boiling over. He is the audience’s avenue into a play which is all about murder, witchcraft and ruthless ambition. The audience shares in every one of his moral dilemmas. He is a destroyed man by the end, and despite his monstrous acts, we’re all, somehow, on his side… It’s a rare thing to see actors go to places as dark as Weaving and Jurisic do and be sucked right in there with them. They both spend a substantial amount of time shrieking and wailing, but do so with engrossing conviction and connectedness. They’re constantly delivering their characters’ truths…

There’s nothing more thrilling than seeing a group of excellent actors giving their absolute all — these actors really do give their absolute all — in a production worthy of their efforts.”


“Front and centre #macbeth #thescottishplay #whoopsisaidmacbethinthetheatre” Ellise Hills via Instagram

David Spicer, Stage Whispers: “In the early moments only the extraordinary acting was holding it together. The publicity blurb promised a towering performance from Hugo Weaving as Macbeth and this was an understatement. He was booming, terrifying, and charisma personified…

I must admit, however, that I was beginning to yearn for them to start again. Wouldn’t we enjoy these performances even more, if we could do a swap and sit in the comfortable seats instead?…

Then, at last, some magic started happening and the initial discomfort was forgiven. Like the amnesia of child birth…

There was relief too when light, shade and texture was introduced onto the seating allowing for some of the murderous action to take place in the dress circle and stalls… There was also the thrill of being behind the curtain when it comes down, leaving us at close quarters with the demonic King of Scotland… Then the exhilarating beautiful finale as the cast is showered from above…

So was it worth the trouble of turning the theatre inside out?  The answer is yes…but once is enough.”


“#openingnight #Macbeth #sydneytheatrecompany program signed by #Hugoweaving #STC” Princess Abroad via Instagram

Polly Simons, Stage Noise: “There’s nowhere to hide in the stripped-back surrounds of Sydney Theatre, and no escape from Macbeth’s “vaulting ambition” and unrelenting personal anguish. It demands much from the audience – including the ability to endure the hideously uncomfortable seating – yet rewards them with a perceptive and genuinely thought-provoking production…

As a staging decision however, it is inspired; forcing us to bear witness to this nightmare of Macbeth’s own making and, together with some clever effects from designer Alice Babidge that conjure up the swirling fogs, howling winds and driving rain of the Scottish Highlands, making Macbeth’s isolation and despair in the latter stages of the play even more acute…

Weaving, as you would expect, is charisma personified as Macbeth: an ordinary man eaten up by guilt and feverish imaginings yet too far down his bloodthirsty path to ever come back…
Despite the diminished role given to Lady Macbeth in the production, Melita Jurisic shines, and there’s excellent work too from John Gaden, Robert Menzies and Ivan Donato… As Macduff and Lady Macduff respectively, Kate Box and Paula Arundell provide two of the most touching moments..

The production is not without its problems – the cavernous space of Sydney Theatre makes the dialogue, particularly in the first few scenes, hard to hear, and despite the hype over Williams’ back-to-front staging, the auditorium itself is barely used for more than a few scenes. ..

But for the most part, Kip Williams’ radical reworking makes Macbeth – much studied, much acted and often performed – seem fresh, new and different once again.”


“Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires. #stcmacbeth #backtofront” Zemmaline_1960 via Twitter/Instagram

Emily St John, Vogue Australia: “Kip Williams’ direction is unconventional and daring. The actors are devoid of costume, the table is bare bar a few props: a dagger, a cup of blood, a set of King’s robes. You might have guessed you stumbled in on a table read months before the final production…

But the opening scene’s humble beginnings unravel, along with the characters’ minds, to make the stage fit for a King and his Lady Macbeth. Melita Jurisic’s performance of the blood lust Queen is inspired and frightening. ..

This is a two-hour redesign of the classic Shakespeare tragedy with no interval, a far cry from the original in many ways. But fear not, some things you simply cannot change. There is of course, plenty of blood… In a twist of cruel fate, the ten-week season is sold out. Fair is foul and foul is fair.”
*

Here are a selection of tweets from some critics promising reviews later, and from average theater-goers. Apart from the seating issues, they’ve all been positive:

Sydney Theatre Company has posted a synopsis and cast-character rundown for anyone anticipating confusion, though I would advise anyone new to the play (or Shakespeare) to read it in full prior to seeing this or any production; once you have a handle on the text it’s much easier to appreciate the specific performances and production choices. They’ve also added a new list of tips and warnings for ticket-holders, probably in anticipation of/response to complaints about the seating and need to be on time or risk being shut out.

Alice Babidge, the production and costume designer, spoke to Broadsheet about her creative choices; she and lighting designer Nick Schliper (who has done a lot of stellar work for the STC in recent years) also chatted with the Sydney Morning Herald. East Side 89.7 published an interesting, informative essay about the play’s themes and historic interpretations.

The reviews do make this production sound deliberately confronting in ways that I find exhilarating, but the theatergoers who haven’t seen Macbeth before (or who require a creature-comforts theatrical experience) might have problems with. I try to imagine what it might be like for anyone new to the play or Shakespeare; Macbeth was routinely read in high school when I was younger (that’s how I was first exposed to it– and loved it immediately) but I have no idea if that’s still the case or if it’s the norm in Australia. While I understand not wanting to feel uncomfortable in one’s seat, I have dozens of such stories about concerts and plays I’ve gone too over the years, and, in the end, such complaints are minor quibbles if the experience is otherwise rewarding. In some cases, it’s a badge of honor to have watched an outdoor concert in torrential rain and lightning with other stalwarts, or to endure BAM’s cramped, severely tiered seats (which seem designed for dwarves or amputees if you’re over 5’3″) in exchange for watching Geoffrey Rush climb up the wall past you into the loge balcony, or Cate Blanchett melt down as Blanche Dubois.

For some perspective, if my finances could handle it, I’d be more than happy to sit in a cramped coach airplane seat for a 22-hour flight to Sydney to sit in STC’s “uncomfortable seats” for a mere two hours if the reward was seeing Hugo Weaving play Macbeth. Thousands of Hugo Weaving fans and Shakespeare nerds all over the globe envy you if you have an opportunity to see this production. The inconveniences and discomfiture will just add interesting side-notes to the stories you tell your grandkids. 😉

If you are in Sydney August 4 and can budget for a particularly unique experience, Hugo Weaving and the STC are auctioning off two tickets to the performance followed by post-show drinks with the leading man, all to benefit Theatre of Image, a cause Hugo has supported for many years, including serving as their ambassador. More details here.

The Hobbit: The Battle Of Five Armies At Comic Con

Peter Jackson and an impressive array of cast members from the final Hobbit film appeared earlier today at an hourlong-plus panel promoting the film, which also featured an extensive cast Q & A, the first viewing of the teaser and a hilarious-sounding blooper reel. While non of the video, including the preposterously long-awaited teaser, has yet been posted online, you can read a detailed synopsis of the event at TheOneRing.net, which features a generous selection of photos. Of the major cast members, only Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen and of course Hugo were unavailable due to other work commitments. Cate Blanchett was surprisingly on hand and the sneaky Laketown spy who bears a striking resemblance to Comedy Central pundit Stephen Colbert moderated with a hilarious running commentary.


Cate Blanchett looms over the BOFA panel at Comic Con (via TheOneRing.net)  L to R: Steven Colbert (at lectern) Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Graham McTavish, Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis

Among the highlights: Peter Jackson hinted that Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel and the rest of the White Council do indeed stage av raid to rescue Gandalf from his cage at Dol Guldur, and that this is the context for all the BTS shots of Elrond in his armor that have been circulating. According to PJ, ” We do get to see Galadriel ‘losing it a bit’ in this movie,” in the context of battle. Blanchett added, “I lose my shit. My Elven shit”, prompting Colbert to quip, “I’m sure it sparkles.” Bard and Legolas (otherwise known as Luke Evans and Orlando Bloom) provided ample fan service by answering Freudian questions about whose bow was bigger and more accurate; they wisely split the difference. And Benedict Cumberbatch launched a tidal-wave of online dragon-porn by answering fan questions in character as Smaug. 😉

Ideally we’ll have some video of this or the teaser soon. Descriptions of the teaser from fans and bloggers on hand suggest it’s magisterial and tragic, with battle sequences, dragon carnage, Galadriel tending to a wounded Gandalf and hints of tragedy for some characters. (TORn panelists had earlier speculated Peter Jackson might up the death count from the book’s already-sad toll, to the extent some were joking George R R Martin was commissioned to handle the final draft.) There hasn’t been a lot of Elrond-specific content apart from confirming this still is indeed from filming of the Dol Guldur rescue/battle sequence which probably happens early in the film. (Hugo also apparently provides some fan service of his own by switching between Smith and Elrond personae in the blooper reel shown during the panel… Ian McKellen also dances in character in his scanties, apparently). I’m cautious about hoping for too much Hugo screentime in BOFA given his limited time on set, and the fact that he wasn’t a part of third film Battle of Five Armies pick-up shoots last year.  But at least he gets to do more than stand around being upstaged by Galadriel and a bunch of insolent Dwarves. 😉

While we await that teaser or other video content, you can enter a contest to see a preview screening of BOFA in New Zealand on Peter Jackson’s Facebook Page or here (direct link), see the Smaug-tastic first poster for the film at Flickering Myth and read about PJ’s Evil Jester Cosplay Adventure here. There’s also ample SDCC/Hobbit panel coverage at Collider, /Film, Movies Edge, iO9, MTV and of course TheOneRing.net.

Since this entry is already quite long, I’ll wrap things up, promising to include any new Macbeth reviews or photos… or any film trilogy trailers fraught with heavy expectation. 😉

STC Macbeth Rehearsal Photos, Fan Photos, Healing Opens In NZ

Sydney Theatre Company has shared a few tantalizing photos taken in the Macbeth rehearsal room in the weeks leading up to the play’s formal opening; now that they play is running (in previews) they’ve posted the full astonishing set. In addition, fans attending early performances have shared photos of the theatre and STC’s on-site promotions (posters, programs and the like) which I’ll also cross-post here.

All rehearsal photos (21 total!) originated at STC’s Facebook page and were taken by Grant-Sparkes Carroll:


Hugo Weaving and Robert Menzies


Hugo Weaving and Robert Menzies as Ross , possibly seeing ghosts 😉


Hugo Weaving with Ivan Donato, Robert Menzies


Hugo Weaving and John Gaden


Funny how King Duncan isn’t looking too relaxed at Macbeth’s ministrations 😉


Not sure if Hugo is exercising (as I’d guessed prior) or rising up off the floor in acting out a scene.


Hugo Weaving and Ivan Donato. Love how the rehearsal room table doubles for Macbeth’s banquet table


Weaving, Menzies and Donato


Weaving and Donato


Weaving and Gaden


The cast at a table-read


Weaving and Menzies


Weaving and Eden Falk


Weaving, Donato and Menzies


Weaving, Donato, Menzies


According to the STC, “Rehearsal room inspiration”


The script:  Dying to know why “Hedgehog” is written next to Witch 2.  A familiar or cauldron ingredient? 😉

Here are some of the great fan photos (and one of STC’s) that have surfaced since the production began its run, including original posts’ text:


Despite the chilly weather, there are some keen bean punters lining up at The Wharf Box Office to try their luck at $20 tickets for #stctheeffect & #stcmacbeth. Find out more about #suncorptwenties at sydneytheatre.com.au/suncorptwenties”  (from STC’s Twitter/Instagram)


One of the most interesting productions and performances I’ve ever seen on stage with Hugo Weaving as Macbeth at @SydneyTheatreCo tonight! #STCMacbeth”: Blake Dew via Twitter/Instagram

This is our first look at the STC’s staging from inside the Wharf Theatre/audience viewpoint. The table looks even more spartan than in rehearsals.  My undying thanks for NOT using some gimmicky destaturation/Polaroid filter. 😉


“Just watched @sydneytheatreco Macbeth with Hugo Weaving, stunning production.” Dickon Boyles (dontforgetdick) via Twitter/Instagram


Great experience #macbeth last night at the #sydneytheatrecompany with #Hugoweaving hope I’m not spoiling but the effects are A1″ Eric Lobbecke via Twitter/Instagram
(He drew the caricature too)


Tuesday night theatre brought to you by #macbeth #pancakesontherocks #hugoweaving #sydneytheatreco #pancakesontherocks, #hugoweaving, #sydneytheatreco, #macbeth” Melanie Nicholls via Instagram (That’s the Macbeth programme.)


“Perfect end to the day & start to the week at #sydneytheatrecompany #hugoweaving #macbeth” Milica Duric via Instagram

Here’s a selection of more early Twitter reviews:

With the play’s “official” opening night in just a few days more pics (including some of the cast in the actual theatrical space) are sure to appear soon, and I’ll update as often as my jobs and schedule permit. Also: can we have a few images of the leading ladies, STC? I’d love to see how they realize Banquo, Macduff and of course Lady Macbeth. And then there are the male witches…

Just the rehearsal photos give weight to the cast and director’s comments that they’re trying to create a more human, identifiable Macbeth and Lady Macbeth than conventional productions tend to.  Ironically, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Hugo look so vulnerable in a role, apart from his Lionel in Little Fish. Too often, productions do reduce Macbeth to a maniacal caricature after his initial hesitation, though this is at odds with Shakespeare’s dialogue, even in the final scenes. It looks as though STC has something special on their hands, and it’s more than Lady Macbeth’s imaginary bloodstains. 😉 (STC posted an early– as in very early, circa 1610– review of Macbeth in their online magazine. Interesting that even back then, critics couldn’t resists dropping spoilers.)

Also, can I renew the call for STC to START SIMULCASTING OR FILMING these plays, PLEASE? I have always deeply appreciated the productions that did tour, and also respect that theatre is an essentially ephemeral art form. But not everyone in the world who wants to see even the touring productions is lucky enough to live near Sydney or the cosmopolitain centers (New York, London, Washington DC, etc) that would typically have the resources to stage them. Also, tickets for STC’s The Maids (at Lincoln Center) are expensive enough to exclude a large portion of the audience that wants to see it, as does the brief run. Since all of these actors have busy careers and global fans eager to see them in something other than Hollywood villain roles (which even Cate Blanchett has been shunted into of late, when not working in indie films) the only fair solution is simulcasting or filming. Or both. I was lucky enough to see Uncle Vanya five times and that wasn’t enough. It was truly sublime. STC should start saving these productions for posterity and sharing them with a much wider audience.  Also, they could raise funds this way. The average simulcast nets $18 to $25 a pop in my area, more in New York.

Healing Opens In New Zealand

Director Craig Monahan has assumed most of the promotional duties for his film Healing as it opens in New Zealand; obviously Hugo is otherwise occupied at present. You can read an interview he gave at Diversions.co.nz. (He says, of working with Hugo repeatedly: ” [It’s a] pretty good [working relationshp] .We live in different cities, so we tend to see each other only occasionally. He is a very relaxed person and easy to work with. Plus he has real screen presence. So it’s all upside as far as I am concerned.” There’s also a positive review of the film by George Machin at LetterboxD, and a middling one that praises Hugo at Yahoo NZ.

I hope to have an additional magazine piece on Healing ready to share soon.

Guardian Interview

STOP THE PRESSES!

The Guardian Online has just posted a WONDERFUL new interview with Hugo, which in addition to discussing Macbeth delves into his thoughts on why, exactly, he has turned his back on big-budget filmmaking, and why independent films and television are so critically important. Hugo’s thoughts on Hollywood’s tendency toward ‘fan service’ at the expense of coherent storytelling and artistic integrity (which also ends up commodifying actors and art) are so bang on that I could kiss him for saying that. (Not that I wouldn’t be tempted for other reasons, heh heh). But I’ve seen too many good TV series and promising film concepts undone by this base marketing instinct which insults fans by implying all they really need is titillation, least-common-denominator plotting and to never be challenged. Some fans of Hugo’s big-budget work buy into this mentality that he’s supposed to shut up and take big paychecks because that’s what pleases them, and they can’t be bothered to search out the work he finds most meaningful. I wouldn’t still be a fan after all these years if Hugo’s career had taken that trajectory. And I’m glad there are fans out there willing to follow on the journey Hugo HAS elected to take, which has never been boring or predictable. I’m going to include the full text (behind cut at LJ) because it’s one of the better Hugo Weaving interviews I’ve read lately, and my thanks to Monica Tan for conducting it so well. She obviously asked follow-up questions where others haven’t.

Hugo Weaving: on Macbeth, Hollywood and Tony Abbott’s ‘fascistic’ cuts to the ABC
The actor returns to the stage as a man seduced by evil ambition, following his own experience with the ‘dark side’ (aka Hollywood)
By Monica Tan

Hugo Weaving was first exposed to Shakespeare when he was only nine years old and his parents took him and his siblings to a ballet production of Romeo and Juliet. He went home enraptured.

“I just loved it … Mum started telling me about Shakespeare, and she got out the complete works. We turned to Romeo and Juliet – I’ve still got that particular copy of it – and started reading it. And because I knew the story, it wasn’t as foreign and the language wasn’t as crazy as it might have otherwise been,” he says, from the foyer of the Sydney Theatre Company overlooking Walsh Bay. It’s a sunny day and the water has a stunning, champagne effervescence.

Weaving, who will be playing Macbeth in a new production by the company, sits, somewhat formally, on the lip of a couch. “For weeks and weeks I was playing Romeo and Juliet games with friends,” he adds.

Fast forward 45 years and the Sydney actor is evidently still a Shakespeare fanboy, displaying an impressive knowledge of the historical context from which the works were written. He talks of a late-1500s Elizabethan London that was radically changing: religion was splintering, a rising middle class, education reform, science, and an explosion of creativity and conversation, that found its home in the theatre.

“There was a strong belief, a humanist belief, in the ability of individuals to make a difference, and I think that’s where Macbeth sits,” he says. “He’s a self-made man, but the tragedy is that he’s caught between two worlds: a belief in supernatural prophecy, a fatalistic prophecy, but at the same time he wants to be able to challenge those prophecies and go, ‘I can make my own way in life’.”

Unlike Shakespeare’s more Machiavellian characters such as Richard III or Othello’s Iago, Macbeth is tormented by his evil-doing. “He’s a man with an incredible amount of imagination and conscience,” says Weaving. “He can’t just put it in the past. Macbeth is more like Hamlet in that way; he’s someone whose brain is constantly churning and he’s allowing you to churn with him.”

If Macbeth is the “reluctant murderer”, then Weaving – it could be said – is the “reluctant Hollywood star”. He views the commercial movie machine with a high degree of suspicion. And though, with his appearance in blockbusters like the Marvel superhero flick Captain America and Lord of the Rings franchise, he’s been known to dance with the devil, Weaving has a stronger constitution than Macbeth when it comes to resisting the “dark side”.

The actor is keenly aware he lives in an era in which, piled on top of media interviews, an actor’s promotional obligations to a movie now include social media engagement and fan meet-and-greets. “When we were a week into the shoot of Captain America we flew over to San Diego for Comic Con. I didn’t particularly want to go, but I went, and it was a bit of an eye opener, but it’s so not where I’m at. It cemented in my mind exactly what I didn’t want to do with film and exactly what I wasn’t interested in doing,” he says.

Weaving is highly critical of “fan-driven” forms of movie making, at the heart of which lie huge profit margins. “[The studios] will put a whole lot of names out to get the fan feedback and then cast accordingly. It’s very democratic in that way, but it’s also entirely driven by what’s going to make them money. I’m not sure about being driven by populism as a concept – I think it’s very dangerous because you spend enough money on something to make it popular, it becomes popular, then you use the popularity of the thing to sell other things.

“The fans are being used by the companies. And the fans are happy to be used. You get a young actor who’s given a gift, like some jewellery, and then takes a photo of themselves on instagram, gets thousands and thousands of hits and they’ll say thanks so and so forth for the necklace. Who’s using whom? It’s free advertising. Actors are just commodities, and when you work with these big studios you’re selling their product. So you have to be careful that you’re not being used.”

With such strong words, it’s surprising Weaving did a film like Captain America at all. But he provides, with a grin, reasoning that’s appropriately frivolous, for that sort of movie. “I thought it would be fun to play a Nazi who thought Hitler was really lame, somebody who’s a sort of uber-villain. And I learned a lot working with Marvel on Captain America, but it’s not something I would like to be engaged with again.”

And appearances in films like The Matrix, prove the actor is able to put one foot in both critical and commercial success. “[The Wachowskis] are very political filmmakers, and of all the studios Warner Brothers are probably the most interesting,” says Weaving.

And for every multi-million dollar Hollywood film, there are 20 low budget films being made in Australia, a few of which feature Weaving, and the actor describes, frustratingly, as “going to a big pile of films, in the corner of a room, that no one is seeing”. Sandwiched between cultural cringe, and an influx of foreign cultural imports, Australian creatives struggle to find support to tell local stories. Recent cuts to the budgets of the ABC and SBS are just the latest example of how the arts are valued.

“This is a complete other conversation really, but of course I do find it appalling the way the ABC has been attacked by this present government, stacking the appointees to the board so it’s become a political thing. You’re actually saying ‘if you say this on the ABC news we’re going to cut your budget’, which is essentially what Tony Abbott did. That’s fascistic.

“Having an independent ABC and having a strong arts and cultural community is really important. Because there’s more to life than economics; the economy – I don’t know why it’s the be-all and end-all of everything, to quote Shakespeare.”

New Hugo Weaving Interviews Promoting STC’s Macbeth, More on the Macbeth Pre-Season Briefing


STC’s Facebook banner for Macbeth   Photo: Michele Aboud

Sydney Theatre Company’s highly anticipated, unconventional adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth opens in previews tomorrow (today if you’re actually in Sydney). Thus there has been a wonderful spate of new previews and interviews promoting the production in the Australian media. I’ll share all that have appeared since the prior entry (along with the lovely new photos that accompanied them. The next entry will focus on early responses to the play (which has its formal opening on 26 July), ideally including the first production photos in the intriguingly reconfigured Sydney Theatre. (This is one production where I’m dying to see 360-degree perspective photos of the full theatre, including the audience, based on Hugo Weaving’s and director Kip Williams’ beguiling descriptions. Though the production will indeed invert the customary staging, most of the action will unfold in front of the empty auditorium space rather than within it, as Williams finds the symbolic emptiness of that space part of what provoked him to stage the play this way in the first place.) Even some friends who frequent STC say they have no idea how this is going to work or what it will look like, so I’m more eager than usual to hear critic and audience responses once the first performances are held.

I’ve also been working on a transcript of STC’s pre-season briefing which includes more comprehensive quotes from the cast; STC did kindly share a Twitter transcript of the highlights, but there was a full 35 to 40 minute Q & A session. Our Sydney correspondent Yvette kindly provided her notes and impressions from the event and I’ve cross-checked this with interviews, other eyewitnesses, sources and  STC’s live-tweet to work up a more complete transcript, including all of Hugo Weaving and Kip Williams’ comments. I’m still finishing that, so I’ll start with the stuff people probably are most eager to see: those new interviews and photos. Hugo continues to be impressively modest but articulate about his goals and challenges in taking on one of the most iconic roles in theatre.

The Daily Telegraph/Herald Sun and the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age interviewed Hugo Weaving to preview the production. I’ll embed the print versions of those interviews along with links to the online versions (I’ll include the photos later in the entry, as they’re slightly crisper– if smaller– than the print versions. I’ll intersperse those into the pre-season briefing transcript.) Text is identical in all instances, but the print articles sometimes use different photos. Be advised that some online papers limit page-views, though content in multiple locations… so if the SMH blocks you, for example, you can always go to The Age. 😉 One reason I try to get my hands of print editions: it’s worth paying a little money up front to ensure an article is always there. (Yes, I’m aware there are several methods of caching or saving online articles too. But it’s always a good idea to know when you’ll need to in advance.) If you missed the Weekend Australian Macbeth cover story/Hugo Weaving interview, you can read the print version here (Cover, Page 1, Page 2) and the online version here— The Australian typically limits page views to one per article, so be careful.

As always, WordPress readers should right-click on scans/images, then click “open in a new tab” for full-sized versions.

Sydney Morning Herald Spectrum Macbeth preview/Hugo Weaving & Kip Williams interview. Story by Elissa Blake, Photo: James Brickwood


Here’s an enlargement of the James Brickwood photo:


Daily Telegraph/Herald Sun Interview by Jo Litson, Photos by Tim Hunter

Jo Litson and particularly Elissa Blake always provide quality work when they interview Hugo, so I’m glad they were given that task/honor again. 😉 Blake also posted an interesting survey of “Theatre’s Sexiest Roles” in the Sydney Morning Herald, which includes Hugo Weaving’s 2012 turn as Valmont (Les Liaisons Dangereuses) for the STC and Richard Roxburgh’s forthcoming go at Cyrano be Bergerac. Blake quoted her classic 2012 extended interview with Hugo in the piece. (“I keep thinking about [Valmont] being like a river… A river that is flowing. There’s a fluidity about him, an ability to get past whatever obstacles are in his way. If there’s suddenly a lot of rocks put in his path, he will flow over and around them. He doesn’t want to batter someone else into loving him and he doesn’t want to conquer them – he wants them to come to him. So he will slow it down…. There are times when the river will become very lazy and meandering and other times when it feels like it’s rushing headlong and the other person is caught up in his power.”)

There were a pair of online interviews with other key figures in the production; I’ll include quotes and photos from both below. Kip Williams spoke to The Daily Review about his inspiration for the unique staging and his impressions of working with Hugo; actor Ivan Donato spoke to The Brag about working in the ensemble (he plays Seyton– Macbeth’s sinister adviser, and the role Hugo himself played in his first Macbeth in 1982– and one of the witches) and what audiences should expect.

Kip Williams: “I grew up in Sydney…So I’d obviously seen a lot of shows in Sydney Theatre since it opened in 2004, but I’d never experienced what it was like to walk out onto that stage and look out into the empty theatre. Andrew and I were both there while the set was being built, and we began a conversation about what it would be like to stage a production where the audience sat on the stage and the performance happened before an empty theatre…

For this production, I needed an actor like Hugo. He’s first and foremost an artist. He fights very passionately for the truth of his character and the story, and that’s all I could ask for. It’s that philosophy that you can stage a play in a telephone booth or an Olympic stadium, and if the actor is able to hold the truth and reality of their story, it doesn’t matter what space they’re in.

I find the most potent element of the empty theatre is the uninterrupted empty theatre. It sets up the force of a society and a world looming over the action….“There’s a temptation in this production to look at the thousands of ways you can use the space interestingly. That’s not at the heart of why the space has been inverted. It’s about what the space offers dynamically, rather than as a trick. I always go over to the theatre and am met with all these possibilities — ‘what if people appeared from here, or there!’ — but it’s not all that useful.
Hugo Weaving and Eden Falk in Macbeth Rehearsals  Photo: Grant Sparkes-Carroll Part of my frustration with the way Macbeth is often rendered and spoken about is that it’s some kind of morally prescriptive fable. I get really frustrated when I see any production that’s morally prescriptive. I don’t think that’s theatre or art’s function…The company is really excited about the way its audience will establish a new relationship with that space through this production. But I think you could do a production of Macbeth with Hugo in it, around the other way in the theatre, and it would do fine, both artistically and commercially…The theatre isn’t built, technically, to support this kind of production. It’s a very unusual play to rehearse, because usually I’ve sat in the theatre in which the show is going to be performed many times before directing the show, whereas in this one, there’s a slight hypothetical element at play in the room…

[On the play’s alleged ‘curse’] I had coffee with John Gaden [veteran of Australian theatre and Shakespeare] a few weeks before starting rehearsals, and I asked if he was superstitious, because I’d started calling it ‘the Scottish Play’, and he said it was all rubbish. If he told me he was deeply superstitious, that would’ve set the tone. We haven’t worried about that … but we do largely refer to it as ‘the Scottish Play’.”

*

Ivan Donato:  ”I don’t want to give too much away, but the thinking behind this particular production of Macbeth is to make it quite theatrical, so therefore actually putting the performers in the auditorium and the audience on the stage. There’s certain elements of creating characters on the stage that are happening and quite a lot of stylisation…

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it’s going to be a very special thing by means of that, and also having Hugo playing Macbeth as well, which is going to be really exciting. Just among other actors, particularly in our industry, he’s one of those people you look up to. He’s so accomplished and world-renowned…


Hugo Weaving,  Ivan Donato and Robert Menzies in Macbeth rehearsals  Photo: Grant Sparkes-Carroll

I think this is becoming more and more prevalent in theatre in general, particularly in the major companies, where they don’t necessarily set it in a certain time or place…It’s more ambiguous, and what that forces the audience to do is to use their imaginations a bit more in regards to the characters, the situation and the setting…

If you set it in a particular time and place you constrain the piece, whereas if you allow it just to be itself in more of a box setting, it lives and breaths more than, for example, setting it in 1940s fascist Italy. Already that setting has its own connotations that I think takes away from the piece. A lot of the time what you’re trying to do then is fit your particular take on that production to the text as opposed to just letting it be what it is…

[In Shakespeare’s day] They basically came on with nothing; very minimal props. So you can imagine that for Elizabethans to see these plays that talk about Italy and exotic places, it didn’t matter because they were speaking in their own language. They could talk about all of these wonderful areas and tell the story, which is very brave and something that you don’t see very often now. You don’t see an Australian production that’s set in Italy where it doesn’t matter if we speak with Australian accents. It’s a very brave thing to do…  “I don’t believe in curses, but touch wood that nothing happens with us here. I’m betting that something will happen once we get to theatre, though.”
*

STC’s Macbeth Pre-Season Briefing Transcript

Here’s my transcript of the July 14 event held at Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf Theatre. While I’ve tried my hardest for a complete, accurate rendering of what was said, be advised that some actors were very soft-spoken and difficult to hear, and at other times ambient noise in the theatre (coughing, audience chatter, etc) made discerning some responses difficult.  While I do have all of Hugo Weaving and Kip Williams’ comments, Melita Jurisic’s were somewhat edited, as my source found her difficult to hear. Also, some actors either didn’t say much beyond introducing themselves or their comments were’t taken down. The actors were miked, but those asking questions weren’t always (and weren’t audible to my sources) so in some cases I’ve had to infer questions from the answers.

If STC would provide audio or video of the event, we’d have a more accurate record, to be sure. (Pretty please?) 😉 My primary thanks go out to Yvette for her enthusiasm in attending STC events as well as her strenuous note-taking and generous sharing of those experiences. Apologies in advance to anyone misquoted or omitted/abridged; again, I’m somewhat removed from the actual event. Those in the theatre had a unique experience. Hugo and Kip Williams’ comments do echo their sentiments from press interviews about the play, but there’s an unguarded, colloquial quality to their comments here which I find particularly special.

Andrew Upton: For an English-language theatre company, I think that it’s vital that we do Shakespeare once a year. Because it’s part of the blood of the form, and his writing is so deeply ingrained in our understanding of theatre that, as theatre practitioners and as audiences. we need to go back to it, revive it and find out how it [works] today, how it asks to be done, and why it asks to be done, because it is directly linked to the English theatre gene. A lot of this comes down to, in some ways, the fact that when Shakespeare was writing, a lot of the English language,as we know it now can’t have come into being… I’m terrible with numbers, but I think the average vocabulary is now 3,000 words, and there are over 17,000 English words in Shakespeare’s 36 plays. So the writer had a masterful command of the whole shape of a language that was evolving, and has arrived and is still in play, and is still evolving, of course.
And that connection to language, and the direct connection through that language to the creation of theatrical space, which he was also a master of, means that as an English-language theatre company– we put on 16 shows a year– we need to constantly [return to] that touchstone. Because he tells us what our practice is doing. It helps us read what we’re doing, to re-engage with the form. So that’s at the very bottom of our work. Well, not ‘bottom’… bedrock. [Laughs]

 

So that’s the conversation I had awhile ago with Kip [Williams], which led to the programming of Romeo and Juliet last year, which Kip directed, and that conversation came out of a conversation about language in the theatre, which came out of our work together, which began with Kip’s directorial debut in the company with [Dylan Thomas’s] Under Milk Wood. And that in turn had gone back to when he had been my assistant on The White Guard. And strangely, as a kind of coming together of the two rivers, because we were putting on The White Guard at the Sydney Theatre as well,  we were putting it in the theatre [inaudible]… and we were standing on the stage and the set was kind of in [place but] it was still kind of empty as a space. And I was looking this way, and saying “I love it, there’s this beautiful clear view at the backstage of the Sydney Theatre, there’s this beautiful round bit of structure.”  That old structure from the rocks where there was an old road… you could see the shadow of an old road which used to lead up to the toll, and there’s this beautiful turret-like place. And I’m saying, “There’s this beautiful ready-made set– there.” And Kip’s standing, looking out at the audience,  and you could see him [thinking it over], saying, “What if you could do [a play] facing out this way, straight out?” So we’ve kind of inverted the space, and that sort of inversion– that strange kingdom of emptiness, that an empty fear is– led straight to a conversation about Macbeth.

 

So that’s what we’re doing. We’re putting the audience on the stage of the Sydney Theatre, which gives us a capacity roughly the size of  Wharf One, and roughly the shape of Wharf Two– obviously roughly [Laughs]. And the actors are playing an apron that’s being built directly out from the stage and reaches into the auditorium.  So the backdrop, if you like, of the production is a sort of cemetery of empty chairs. Which is great on a number of levels.  There’s sort of strange structure inside theatres, a kind of kingdom-like structure [where] the audience usually lives,  in the stalls [Laughs] And there’s a kind of graveyard [made up of] chairs, and there’s a sort of vast, cavernous emptiness to play off of. That vision. So there [are] all those things to play off of by this conversion.  As well as a kind of re-imagining of the theatre, which is important, because we could easily [use] the same configuration, the same seats, and the shows start to take on a sameness that they don’t need to have. Just bending it a little– there’s a freshness just in that.  So those are the kind of reasonings around the choice of play, which came out of the discussion of] the space directly, which came out of Shakespeare’s canon, from this conversation that Kip and I had been having over three or four years now.  The choice to change the space so radically for the audience seemed to fit in and around the inverted world that is the kingdom of Scotland under Macbeth.

 

So that’s the Artistic-Directorial rationale of my Sydney Theatre production of Macbeth. Now I would like to turn things over to the actors. I’d like to start with you, John [Gaden]… the youngest of the troupe [Laughs]

 

The Macbeth pre-season briefing, so far the only photo of the event (via STC’s Twitter feed)

John Gaden: I’m John Gaden, and I’m– are we going to say who we are?

 

 AU: Yes!

JG:  I’m paying Duncan, the king who gets popped [Laughs]. And I play, strangely enough, another Old Man, who’s very gloomy, that’s faithful, I play [one of] the Murderers, I play young Macduff,  the young child of Macduff…don’t laugh [Laughs] And then I was going to play The Doctor, [inaudible] and last but not least Donalbane.

Robert Menzies: I’m Robert Menzies, and I’m playing The First Witch, I’m Ross, The Porter, and [a] murderer.
Kate Box: I’m Kate Box, and I’m playing Macduff, John’s father [Laughs] a witch, The Second Witch, and the Lord Angus
 Alice Babidge: Hi, I’m Alice Babidge, and I’m the set and costume designer

Eden Falk: I’m playing Malcolm, and Fleance and the Third Apparition

Ivan Donato: .. And I’m playing Seyton, and Witch Three

Hugo Weaving: I’m Hugo Weaving, and I’m playing Macbeth.

Kip Williams: I’m Kip Williams, and I’m the director

Petra Kalive: I’m Petra Kalive, and I’m playing the assistant director [Laughs]

KW: That was very convincing. [Laughs]

Paula Arundel: I’m Paula Arundel, and I’m playing Banquo and Lady Macduff

Melita Jurisic: I’m Melita Jurisic and I’m playing The Bloody Captain, the Second Apparition, and…em… Lady Macbeth [Crowd: Wooooh!; Laughs]

AU: Nick Schlieper is doing the lights, and we have  Max Lyandvert on the sound, and Sherry Granville on voice and text. So I feel like I’ve done my part, of introducing the cast and crew,  I’ve told you the rationale behind the program and the show,  I’m going to [hand things over] to you, Kip, and  you can take the conversation where you want for awhile…

KW: I don’t know how much more to add on what Andrew said about the genesis of the production.   A couple of points to add: I think my starting point whenever I approach a play to direct it is to find the human story within it. Not so much the back of the plot, but what’s the human story beneath the plot.  That’s about the characters and their evolution and the journey that we chart with them. And once I have a sense of that, a feeling for that, the conversation that I have with the design team, and often a conversation about story is found with the design team… once that is found, the conversation is always about space. What space do we need to create, so that story can take place? And the very unusual thing about this project has been, as Andrew has pointed to, that space has conjured story, that my experience of walking out onto the ST stage, and witnessing the empty theatre conjured my sense– or a sense– of what a potential story within Macbeth might be.

 


Hugo Weaving and director Kip Williams  Photo: James Brickwood, The Sydney Morning Herald

And it’s informed a certain language of the production too: in exposing the theatre to the audience, it says to that audience [that] an act of storytelling is happening before you.  And the way we start telling you this story is in a very exposed way.  You see actors assume character, and they pass the spirit of that story from scene to scene, amongst each other. And the further we get into it, the more your imaginations take hold, and you find yourselves within the world of that play.

So the process of creating this story has been a fascinating one, and very much contingent on the people who have been brought into the room– of course, you can’t do The Scottish Play without the ‘Scotland’– particularly this take on the story, which is asking the audience to identify with that character, to find direct, first-line identification with that character all the way through to the end. And so the actors that have been recruited into an amazing creative team of designers I’m [working] with, I very much looked for people whom the audience could identify with, when they’re inhabiting the darkest of places, as this play takes us to. And then, beyond that, I was interested in finding ‘theatre animals’, people who imaginatively and playfully can create story and create and imaginative universe out of very little. So that was the process that led to Day One of rehearsals, and we have been delving into the depths of this story for five weeks now.  So– any questions that you might have?

Q: [Have you ever directed Macbeth before]?

KW:  Never… I did a Dada-based exercise in high school using Lady Macbeth’s sleep-walking text.  And we ended up with something like seven litres of bloody water all over the stage. Got into a lot of trouble. {Laughs]

Q: [What is Hugo’s take on character? Also. the use of actors playing multiple roles has been used since Shakespeare’s time, but is there much more of that technique in this production? ]

HW:  Probably in this case, there are more [uses of] doubling than there would have been in Shakespeare’s company,  but there would have been doubling in Shakespeare’s company, certainly.

KW: I’ll be brief: I think one of the things that I have found frustrating as an audience member watching this play is when the story has been rendered with a sense of moral prescription. It is the danger of this particular play to render the Macbeths in a way where you finish the play, and they’re monsters and they’re villains and they get their comeuppance.. and we’re sort of let off the hook in that sense, ’cause we say, “That’s not me”. So the reshaping…the slight reshaping of the form, the ‘pit’ that’s in this production has been geared towards removing judgment. And that, to me, feels closer to the interrogation that Shakespeare has in the play. It was really radical for someone 400 years ago to be writing the type of existential thoughts that he writes in this play.  It feels a bit natural to me that this person would allow their audience to not feel like they have to be fully inside that person. Whereas I think we can stomach it,  and that there’s greater revelation in being with that person at the end.

HW: Look, it’s such a long and complex process; it’s a play that’s always excited my imagination hugely, ever since I was in drama school. I’ve always been drawn it… to the whole play, no just the character.  And he is a human being, he has to be a human being, and why does he do what he does? When he’s tearing himself apart, and giving you and himself all sorts of reasons why he shouldn’t do something, but he goes ahead and does it…and all the things he says will happen to him kind of do, and more so… and there’s this dreadful, nightmarish journey that he goes on which is of his own making. He’s a man caught between two worlds I think… he wants to prosecute his own individuality, but he’s also caught in a very hierarchical world where certain things are off limits and he wants to push those, but it’s not [wholly] conscious. When we meet him, he is at the height of his power and status, and it’s as if he’s so charged with something that he allows himself to fall into an activity, an action that he wouldn’t under any other circumstances have done, and it kind of allows him to [follow] his darkest, deepest hideous desire, his ego, to almost unconsciously enact something. Which brings about an absolutely appalling outcome.  That’s very complex… human, and hideous. And so…

Q: How do you work?

HW: I just keep reading, reading it… imagining, imagining, moment to moment. I’m very lost in it. Shakespeare’s characters aren’t… I feel stupid to say this because it’s so obvious, but they’re not… you can’t pin them down. You can’t follow a kind of logical… you can’t contain their whole psychology, actually. There’s so much in there. The more you find, the more you choose to look. There you go. So I can’t really define the whole process.

Q:  Do the other people [cast members] help?

HW: Yes and no. [Laughs]

Hugo Weaving in the Wharf Theatre’s rehearsal room  Photo: Tim Hunter, The Herald Sun/Daily Telegraph

 

Q: [Are the costume designs contemporary?]

AB: I sort of say… Yes, it’s a contemporary telling of the story, a contemporary setting, in a theatre that you recognize. I’ve seen for the most part that my job was the clothes, and I really consciously referred to them always as ‘clothes’ not ‘costumes’ , is to have been as seemingly hands-off as possible, and leave these people to do their jobs, and just stick things in where I thought appropriate. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of Elizabethan period fancy and play on the side. There are, and there are signifiers of the class structure, and of the court structure. I think we are going to [use] archetypes that help to tell the story, or guide the story-telling. But for the most part, the resolution of the clothes is quite simple. But I think [it] helps with things like the doubling, and Kip’s been feeling quite [it’s] cohesive, but also helps us as a contemporary world [to feel like] their equals, …as if it’s someone we would see walking down the street, or on the bus… we know these types.  And it makes it easier for us to instantly give in to the world. And that would be part of my job, I think.

 HW: Shakespeare himself basically says, [in the text], look, let your imaginations create this battlefield. Let me take you on this journey to various points and imagine, if you
will, these things. His actors will be in their…clothes of the day, with signifiers, or a Roman helmet or spear or whatever. So it feels like we’re kind of in that sort of work at the moment. And this is a play which I’ve always…I’ve heard this as a radio play. It works inside your head. The doing of it and the experience of it.  It’s an incredible atmosphere the language creates. This fantastic atmosphere. And so we’re telling our story initially in a very simple way, kind of not dissimilar to where we are now, so an entrance could be signified by someone standing up out of their seat, and starting to tell their story. And we’d build it from there.

Q: [Hugo, have played  Macbeth before?]

HW: No. I was in a production of Macbeth at the STC when I was in my first year out of drama school [inaudible] John Bell played Macbeth, I played Seyton.

KW: That was in nineteen…I was three [years old] [Laughs]

Q: [Do you refer to the play as Macbeth or The Scottish Play amongst yourselves? Do you believe in ‘the curse’?]

AB: I call it The Scottish Play and I… use the other word when I’m talking about the character. I don’t think it’s cursed. And I have a bundle of sage in my handbag. And I keep burning it in the theatre [to ward off bad luck] [Laughs]. Kip and I had one incident that felt incredibly otherworldly when we were working on this production… before we started rehearsals, we were working out all these ideas for the stage [in the] rehearsal room in here, and we had all of these balloons, and we had fans going… And we turned everything off.. and a piece of wood fell from a high ceiling and hit between the two of us on the ground And we both looked up. And there was nothing above us, and there was no wood, and we looked at each other with these sort of wide, frightened eyes. And I just said a generous, “Hello! Welcome! We will spend the next few months with you, in your play, please be kind.” [Laughs] And nothing since. It worked. [Laughs, Applause]

Q: [Discuss the challenges of moving from the rehearsal room to the technical rehearsals in the actual, theatrical space]

KW: That’s a good question. We’ve had about a platform in the rehearsal room, but obviously we don’t have the empty 900 seats to play with. We’ve been over to the theatre maybe three or four times. There’s a couple of scenes that are very heavily… draw a line to the empty theatre space along the stage, and there’s the potential [to do more with the auditorium space], and we’ve always been open to that, but watching it in the room today, this afternoon, watching the run… [as to how the final staging will be realized on any given day], I don’t know. We’ll see. Again, the people who are on board with this production are playful, creative minds, and if inspiration strikes them, then it strikes.  But we have a structure for the show as it stands, which hasn’t been too badly inhibited by having an empty theatre.

And that’s also partly because we’ve had to be really judicious about when we use [the theatrical space]. Because I know one of the temptations of staging the play in this way is that we stage a… you know, the spirit of the 1,001 Interesting Ways To Use An Empty Theatre [as a gimmick or novelty]. Audiences would get tired of that pretty quickly.

And I also think it would undercut the potency of…with not 100% a weight here, but the symbol of an empty theatre. I think that, in the way Beckett’s tree with the two boots [in Waiting for Godot] offers endless interpretation to an audience… [this production was inspired by] an image of an empty theatre originally, and a lot of the staging takes place in front of that image… particularly where we reach towards the end of the play, as Macbeth is increasingly alone. There’s a lot of potency in that image for me. And so I haven’t wanted to… interrupt that too much. Because I think that there’ll be a lot for people to take from that.

HW: I’m looking forward to getting in there [the theatrical space]… I suppose, really, as actors we would be looking out to something similar to what we’re looking at now. But I’m interested in… I’m excited about what that space behind will give us, what that wall of space will give us in terms of levels. It’s a really exciting set.. it feels like for us and for you and for all the people working on the show that it’s such a new experience, that it feels so palpably charged… hopefully that will give it a whole… unusual dimension.

 


Hugo Weaving at the STC’s Wharf Theatre   Photo: Tim Hunter, The Herald Sun/Daily Telegraph

KW: I feel like in rehearsal, it’s been easy to forget that you’ve got this cavern behind you… Gestures, just as you have even pointed out, sometimes are so simple because of what’s surrounding us…We aren’t doing much, but there’s so much going on..

HW: We’ll also be out here… It’s so interesting; we have been working on a rostrum in the rehearsal room, but I am interested in getting… in seeing that space, seeing that…sort of shoreline between the auditorium, which we do use occasionally, and the stage space itself. But I think out of the schedule he gets a break… he gets a long walk on that shoreline, because it is genuinely quite different [from the rehearsal room experience]… that temptation to move out into that space would fill us.

Q: [Describe the acoustics of the altered theatrical space, how that affects the use of sound in the play.]

AU: We’ve been taking that into consideration. This production is completely radio-miked, and that will help acoustically, obviously…Sound is a large part of the texture of the production, actually. That slight, occasional disembodiment has been part of the [theme] of the whole production.

KW: The acoustics are surprisingly good in the whole auditorium too. [Inaudible second sentence]

Q: [Melita, tell us how you’re interpreting Lady Macbeth?]

MJ:  Good question [laughs] What interests me, particularly I think, obviously, is how rare the love story is. And I think.. it just gives natural scope in her relation to the other characters. Because then the fall is greater, the fallout between them, the personal fall for each character. [Inaudible] Their deeds speak for themselves, but because they are people in love, [their actions] have a greater power to shock, and this has a resonance for the audience. There is more of an atrocity [because the characters are relatably human].

Q: [Is there a score or musical component?]

KW: It’s more ‘scored’ as a kind of sound design than as a [conventional soundtrack]. The further we go into the play, the more that become present…

Q: [As a relatively young director, how did you attract a cast of this caliber?] [Laughter]

KW: Best of all luck! [Laughs] It’s a great privilege, as a young director, to have an actor of Hugo’s experience and wisdom and ability to come aboard with a relatively young director. And I feel pretty similarly about everybody in the cast, really.  I was a little teenager who went and watched shows at STC, so pretty much all of the cast I’d seen onstage as an audience member. So it’s a thrill for me to work with them. But, as I said, outside of my  own, gushy response there [Laughter]  I was drawn to find people with a particular theatrical imagination, and these are the eight who just made sense, and as each person was added to the mix,  Melita came up to Hugo, John… we’d start to make sense of this cast, and the type of souls who were going to be onstage. They’re great Shakespearean actors, they’re great actors, they’re great artists.

PA: There was one role I had to audition for… HE says it wasn’t an audition…

KW: It wasn’t, Paula… I’ve worked with Paula before.

PA: It was one of those things where… Was it still the first week?

KW: Yeah.

PA: There were still a couple of roles floating around and we didn’t know always who was going to play who… When I first took on Lady Macduff,  [Kip was reluctant to go with certain castings and] he would keep joking “Oooh! This is when she dies”

KW: Paula gets killed twice in the show [Laughs] I wasn’t sure if I could stomach seeing Paula die twice. As it turns out, I could– [Laughs]
 PA: Ow! Three times!

Q: [Are you amending Shakespeare’s text in any way? Are you performing the full play?]

KW:  We’re doing quite a lot of it. We took into the [rehearsal] room almost the full text, barring some of the [expositional sentences], and then the cast themselves offered some things that they actually thought would be worth bringing back in… so we do quite a lot. We’ve made a few cuts in the past few days, to the rhythm more than anything. But it’s really in the fifth act where I’ve… I don’t want to give away too much, but there’s a slight different placement of some scenes, and it becomes very focused around Macbeth’s increasing isolation.


The Macbeth rehearsal room, table read  Photo: Grant Sparkes-Carroll

Q: How long does it run?

KW: Five hours [laughs] Five and a half, really–

AU: No, it’s about two and a half hours, no interval …spoiler

KW: This play feels like it goes for about half an hour. It rattles along…

HW: It does travel on. It’s very pacey. You’ve got to be on top of it, be where the words are, otherwise, as an actor, I think you fall behind if you’re not travelling full-bore.

And so it does feel like it goes at a clip, things are happening, and the imperative– the time imperative– is so great that it actually charges the audience, and yet, towards this terrible thing that happens.  And then it shifts again, and then you’re off again. And it continues to propel itself forward, and that’s the challenge for us, and it’s also the excitement. It’s pretty quick.
AU: They’ve all been working very hard, and they’re about to work even harder, so I think we might let them go. Thanks for coming. [Applause]

CJ here again… that transcript was an absolute bear to put together… albeit a luxuriantly-furred, soft-hugging bear with honey and berries on its breath. 😉 I loved the process but do apologize for how long its taken, and for any errors I’ve made. (I did notice several characters missing from the cast announcement, but can’t say if this was because they’ve been omitted from this production, or there was a transcribing error somewhere along the way… or not every actor listed his full spectrum of characters. The reviews should clarify this a bit. I also noticed the addition of “apparitions” not conventionally in the cast list, though this could be a reference to Hecate or the visions seen during some of the witches’ conjurings. I’ve never seen the play with a female Macduff– gives the whole “not of woman born” thing a new ring– or Banquo… so I’m fascinated to hear peoples’ impressions once the season gets underway. Obviously I’m insanely jealious as well. 😉 And if anyone has an clarifications to make regarding the pre-season briefing or any photos, I’d love to hear from you.

In Other Hugo Weaving News

Congratulations to the cast and crew of Tim Winton’s The Turning, which picked up the West Australia Screen Awards’ Best Drama Feature prize. You can read more about the honor and oher winners in Inside Film.

The Mule continued to garner positive reviews (and grossed-out reactions) during its New Zealand International Film Festival run. The Thirteeth Floor noted: “The film works best as a well visualised rendering of 80s Australian culture, male style and politics, throwing its characters into these situations with a twisted sense of glee. Sampson is terrific as the gormless Ray and finds the right trajectory for the internal story to tick over properly to change this guy from droll simpleton to stubborn damaged victim. Hugo Weaving and John Noble both deliver excellently intense performances of weight and crazed intensity. If you have a weak stomach, be warned: there’s a scene late in the film that gets pretty stomach churning, even for the hardiest. A hardcase, intense comedic thriller.”

BriiMonster tweet-reviewed the film: “The Mule. 5 stars. Hilarious and so perfectly 80’s. Hugo Weaving is absolutely exceptional. Would watch again.” And you can read Hugo’s first published remarks about The Mule in the Herald Sun interview above.

Probably the most buzzed about Hugo Weaving item from the past couple of days has been this set photo from The Hobbit which has circulated on a lot of internet chat-board and social networking sites without a lot of context provided. It purports to be from The Battle of Five Armies (though all of Hugo’s Hobbit footage was filmed back in 2011). That’s certainly possible… ideally we’ll have a bit more information on the film and Hugo’s role– and that long-promised teaser– very shortly.  I’m more enthusiastic about Macbeth these days, as that’s a much more encompassing role. It often seems as though Hugo’s roles with the smallest percentage of screen time (but yes, I know, the biggest budgets and worldwide distribution) get outsized attention. Yeah, the whole Elrond-in-armor thing has definite appeal. I hope he gets more than ten minutes’ screentime in the last go-round, but I’m not holding my breath. 😉

STC Macbeth Preseason Briefing Twitter Transcript; New Hugo Weaving Rehearsal Pic; Costume Designs

Yesterday evening, Sydney Theatre Company held a pre-season briefing, which included the cast, director and STC Artistic Director Andrew Upton. While no exact transcript has (yet) been released, and only the photo below, STC was kind enough to live-tweet the event including quotes /twitter-friendly edits of the Q & A session. I’ll embed these tweets on WordPress in chronological order, and supplement with any new photos or information that might become available.

A lot of these comments echo the optimism and excitement of previous interviews (and confirm some of my speculation in the previous entry). 😉

Here’s another pic of Hugo in Macbeth rehearsals from STC’s Facebook page

This was posted alongside the reminder that STC will be making a limited number of tickets for Macbeth and the rest of the 2014 season productions available every Tuesday at 9am via Suncorp Twenties.

Alice Babidge, STC’s costume designer for Macbeth and several other recent productions, also answered some questions for Veronika Maine. Included in that piece was one of Babidge’s design drawings, which may or may not be a preview of what to expect for Macbeth’s said-to-be-minimalist costumes… uh… clothes. (Sorry!) While I’m pretty sure this is Hugo (I could be wrong about that, too…) This does look like his seedy-leisure-suit look for Les Liaisons Dangereuses (2012) which Babidge also designed, so this might not be a Macbeth sneak-preview at all. It is intriguing, whatever it is. 😉

The one bit of non-Macbeth Hugo Weaving news (which only mentions him in passing, really) is Warner Bros Official Synopsis for The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, which you can read pretty much anyplace online now, but I got it from Flickering Myth.