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’.”

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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.”
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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. 😉

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