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)
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:
— Beverley Clack (@bevclack) July 21, 2014
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.
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.”