New Hugo Weaving Macbeth Cover Story/Interview, STC Rehearsal Photos, Priscilla’s 20th

Hugo Weaving Macbeth promo portrait   Photo: Renee Nowytarger/ News Corp Australia, as seen in The Australian Online

Sydney Theatre Company promised more great Macbeth promotional material as the production’s 27 July opening date approached, and so far they’ve delivered in spades. Hot on the heels of last week’s Time Out Sydney piece and Daniel Boud’s magnificent photo essay comes a lavish cover story in The Weekend Australian (written by the ever-reliable Stephen Romei), with two new portraits by and a interesting rehearsal shot by Grant Sparkes-Carroll. I’m embedding the print version below, as it includes more photos. The online version has identical text and the Renee Nowytarger portrait seen at the top of this entry. (Note: This online paper is notorious for blocking context after the first viewing unless you pay a monthly fee, so be careful about your number of page-views.) Here’s the print version:

Note: WordPress readers can see full-sized versions of all scans & photos by right-clicking, clicking “open in a new tab/window”

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

And here are the small Daniel Boud portraits posted in Time Out Sydney; I held off blogging them in the prior entry because I was hoping larger versions would materialize… I’m still trying too find a print copy of the article. And these are too small to share the lovely nuances of the versions Boud generously posted. But they are slightly different, so in the interests of full disclosure… 😉

Hugo Weaving Macbeth portrait by Daniel Boud, photographed for Time Out Sydney (same credit next four photos)
(I tried enlarging them a little)

Everything revealed so far about this Macbeth production in interviews sounds fascinating and the right move against some of the grand-guignol “epic-ness” of recent American production which choose  to emphasize the “sound and fury” more than the significance. 😉 In addition to the role-doubling and reversed-staging previously noted, Hugo now says the production will be dressed-down, possibly our first ever Macbeth In Denim. (Well… maybe not. Someone somewhere probably thought of it before, given that we’ve had several female Macbeths, nude Macbeth, Macbeth as a one-man asylum monologue and any number of other intriguing twists on the formula.)

I am relieved they aren’t doing the fascist theme which seemed fresh when Ian McKellen and the NT employed it in Richard III in 1990 but has since been done to death.  Patrick Stewart’s 2007-8 version had vague Stalinist allusions (and a wonderfully foreboding, dungeon-like kitchen set) but impressed with cold, calculating menace and finely-wrought minutiae rather than overwrought sturm und drang. I love the idea of STC’s version going even further in this minimalist direction. Shakespeare’s original productions usually featured minimalist sets and expected the audience to engage their imaginations. (Characters often rush onstage to explain the epic battle happening just offstage.)

As is typical these days when small excerpts as published from larger Hugo Weaving interviews, there was a minor storm-in-a-teacup over Hugo’s comments about not being interested in any further Hollywood productions. Some fans apparently only want him playing scenery-chewing villains in one-note blockbusters  for the rest of his career, and a few though he was being disingenuous or elitist. But Hugo has actually been completely consistent in his views on this subject, even as a twentysomething in the 1980s he said he preferred small independent films and was not interested in being famous for its own sake. Every set interview from a blockbuster has been rife with ambiguity; Hugo has been unfailingly polite and kind toward his directors and costars, but has also been honest about his boredom with downtime on such productions, the limitations of the characters he plays, and the emphasis on box office over complexity. He has ALWAYS said films like the Matrix and LOTR were the “anomalies” in his career, not the majority of his work.

He has never been mean-spirited or elitist in saying so. In fact, he’s now curious about doing television if the right role were to appear– something I’ve long thought might be a good fit, as, particularly in America, there is more quality and character development in the best TV than in most big-budget films.  It’s also a better fit for character actors like Hugo: just look at what Bryan Cranston has been able to accomplish on TV versus the stereotypical roles Hollywood directors have given him in recent years. I’d even dare to say that Matthew Mcconaughey’s True Detective role was infinitely more complex than his crowd-pleasing Oscar-turn in Dallas Buyers’ Club. Enough of my patter but I DO think this is a great idea IF the right role comes along. One thing I’m not interested in seeing is Hugo as another cartoon villain or “big bad”. But a complicated hero or antihero would be something to savor. An anthology series like Fargo or True Detective (which have different plots and characters each season) might be a great fit. Speaking of which, Hugo has said he’d love to work with the Coen brothers… 😉

STC has so far shared a pair of rehearsal photos (below) via their Facebook page and eNews letter, and Assistant Director Petra Kalive shared some thoughts (and rehearsal-room notes) on STC’s blog.

Hugo Weaving with castmate Robert Menzies and director Kip Williams in Macbeth rehearsals   Photo: Grant Sparkes-Carroll, via STC’s Facebook

Hugo limbering up for another day’s rehearsals   Photo: uncredited but probably Grant Sparkes-Carroll, via STC eNews

Inside the Macbeth rehearsal room at STC’s Wharf complex   Photo: Grant Sparkes-Carroll, STC Magazine

An excerpt from Petra Kalive’s article: “People often talk about alchemy when creating theatre – the right ingredients, the right time, the right place and an intangibility which makes everything cohere in surprising and profound ways. Alchemy seems an entirely apt word for this production. A world of prophecy, ambition and murder – of double-speak and a cold and murky hell. I don’t want to say too much for fear of ruining a wonderful surprise … but I leave you with what I just wrote down in my notebook…

Not only is the configuration of the theatre literally reversing the order of things, this play will literally appear a phantasmagoria – and we won’t be entirely sure how we arrived there – and as quickly as it appears it will be gone again and we will be left with Macbeth exposed, alone and completely detached. The magic of this production exists in its staging – how did I only just figure that out?”

Director Kip Williams also shared some insights about the play with AltMedia Sydney:  “When I’ve seen [Macbeth] done, I often find the play is rendered as a fable with an element of moral prescription… [In our version], there’s an open-ended identification with the terrible downfall of this individual…. We’re all forced with the quandary that our lives begin and end. And that’s it. That’s the essential question of this play: what do you do in that limited amount of time? Do you behave morally or not? Do you act or wait for things to happen to you?”

More STC/Macbeth news will definitely be coming soon, so stay tuned!

In Other Hugo Weaving News

Hugo’s film Healing has secured fairly wide international distribution (see the previous entry) but for those who simply can’t wait, the Australian DVD and Blu-Ray are available for pre-order. These links are for the Australian site Sanity, but as always, I advise fans to shop around. The DVD/Blu-Ray will be out 24 September; no details yet on what special features will be included, but I suspect they might include some of the lovely preview clips Pinnacle Films shared in advance of the film’s opening.

The classic comedy The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (starring Hugo Weaving, Terence Stamp, Guy Pearce and the late, great Bill Hunter) celebrates its 20th Anniversary this year, a fact which will no doubt make some of us feel a bit old. But the film remains timeless and a cure for any malaise. The Australian National Film and Sound Archive has compiled a lavish Online Exhibit featuring props, costumes (in rotating views), film stills and posters, alongside new video interviews with the film’s costume designers and director, who deftly handled all of the budgetary and climate-related challenges thrown their way. A must-see for any fans of the film or the actors… you can spend hours poring over the collection.

The Green Dress in action  Photo: From Priscilla: A Screenplay, by Stephan Elliott

No, we still don’t have that Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies teaser yet, but that may change soon. Peter Jackson will be in attendance at San Diego Comic Con later this month, and will participate in a panel on the film on July 26; surely the teaser will be available at around the same time. More info at Superhero Movies and, of course,

The Mule is in the middle of four New Zealand International Film Festival screenings, and so far has garnered another positive review, from Darren’s World of Entertainment: “The Mule is a particularly pertinent piece, given that we keep hearing about drugs mules and of course, [real-life accused smuggler] Schapelle Corby….There’s tension aplenty in this simmering tale of oafs, corruption and heroin…

Sampson and fellow director Tony Mahony have pulled together a drama that soaks in the Aussie nostalgia from the time (the America’s Cup forms a bonzer part of the background) and yet is a timeless piece of corruption, drugs and gangsters…. Hugo Weaving also turns in a good solid turn as a cop determined to get his man – from under a mass of moustache and brash belching.”


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