STC Macbeth A Night With The Actors, New Reviews, New Hugo Weaving Interview Promoting Mystery Road

Macbeth: A Night With The Actors

Sydney Theatre Company held its customary post-show Q&A session with the cast of Macbeth (A Night With The Actors) following the 11 August performance; the event was also live-tweeted; unfortunately, I had a prior commitment and was unable to follow the event live, but here are STC’s tweets in chronological order. Hugo Weaving and the full cast participated, taking questions from a moderator and the audience.

“The #AudiCentreSydney team and ACS customers were delighted to attend #Macbeth, starring #HugoWeaving.#Audinightwiththeactors #Sydneytheatrecompany” Audi Centre Sydney via Instagram

As always, if I come across/am provided with a more complete transcript of the event, I’ll share that when it becomes available.

STC Macbeth: The Latest Reviews & Photos

Macbeth’s extended run ensures that new reviews continue to appear day to day as more people are able to see the production. Most continue to be very positive about Hugo Weaving’s lead performance, and the audacity of Kip Williams’ inverted staging. The “uncomfortable seats” remain the least popular element; Those who take issue with the staging reversal are all over the place as to why they had issues, with some wishing more of the drama unfolded among the seats while some finding that aspect compromised.  Audiences are divided on Melita Jurisic’s angst-ridden Lady Macbeth, the different acting styles of some cast members (though all have a strong number of champions as well) and the “slow”, sedentary first act. I understand the reason for the latter in theory, as this production is as much about a group of actors being overtaken by the play as it is about the infamous characters. I’d have to actually see the production to gauge how effectively the gambit played out, though I admire most of what I’ve heard conceptually and have full confidence in Hugo’s abilities.

And this is where I’m going to once again beg the STC to reconsider filming and/or simulcasting their productions. They continue to somewhat blithely stonewall and condescend on this issue, giving the usual excuses that theatre is meant to be ephemeral and that film and theatre are inherently different media. While I’m not disputing either. neither holds water as an excuse. No one is asking for full-scale films requiring new scripts, sets and production design; we just want you to FILM THE PLAYS as staged, either for simulcast to cinemas (a la the UK’s National Theatre or New York’s Metropolitan Opera) or VOD paid streaming. No, this wouldn’t be as ecstatic as seeing the play in person, and couldn’t fully capture the essence of that experience. But it’s the only option for the vast majority of global audiences eager to see these plays, and can’t afford to fly to Sydney to see a play.

I am grateful that the STC tours some productions (including The Maids, starring Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert, which I’ll be seeing next week.) But they can’t tour every production, and certainly can’t tour any production worldwide: these are popular actors with many different demands on their time. Even fans within reasonable distance of some cities STC tours to can’t afford tickets that cost up to $250 (what I paid for mid-orchestra seats at The Maids– bought directly from Lincoln Center, by the way, not a scalper or ticket agency). Yes, there are often reduced-rate/student tickets or other last-minute bargain offers, but these are quickly snapped up and often require the buyer to be physically present at the box office first thing in the morning (which in a city like New York incurs a hotel or parking expense before you’e even gotten started) or aren’t nearly plentiful enough to meet demand. I’ve always thought it would be fun to see Shakespeare in Central Park, and the tickets are nominally “free”– but despite more entries in the online ticket lottery, I’ve yet to win. I know people trying to buy Suncorp Twenties tickets to Macbeth probably face similar odds.

I’m increasingly frustrated that I’ll have to miss what are almost certainly the most interesting, complex performances given by my favorite actor in recent years because I’m on the wrong continent and filming/simulcast options aren’t being taken seriously. Maybe there are legitimate cost-related reasons that aren’t being explained adequately, but every time I ask– or another person asks– anyone from STC about this issue, we’re given either no reason or flimsy, pretentious excuses about ephemerality of media by individuals who get to spend weeks or months involved in these productions and see them grow and evolve night after night (which is much less “ephemeral”). During an otherwise-fascinating pre-show discussion for The Maids at Lincoln Center, Benedict Andrews deflected a question about filming such an important production by saying he “preferred it as a play”.  Theatre has an elitist, difficult and remote reputation, and non-answers like these just increase that misperception by denying so many fans access. I will always see STC productions that come to New York or other US cities. But they need to meet me and thousands of others halfway when they can’t tour. I’ve heard that The Maids is so intricately constructed and thematically complex that one should see it twice. I’d love to, but can’t afford to… and the run is sold out anyhow. 😉

Sorry to go on about that, but I was provoked. 😉 Anyhow, here are the latest Macbeth review excerpts; I highly encourage you to click on the links and visit the sites of origin for the full versions. Interspersed are fan photos from lucky Sydney theatregoers who saw the production. Thank you all for sharing!

“#Macbeth with #hugoweaving !” Sharon Cooper via Instagram

Glenn Saunders, The Spell of Waking Hours: ” Played out against the vast backdrop of the (now-empty) Sydney Theatre, Kip Williams’ production emphasises the poetry and creates many arresting images in the moody darkness. And in many ways, it is one of the most human Macbeth’s I’ve seen, both in performance and in impact…

As soon as Hugo Weaving ‘enters’ as Macbeth, his voice rich and warm, gruff yet melodious, a certain stillness washes over the audience and you know there is magic at work here, if only it would find its feet…After a half-hour or so in which much of Act One passes with barely a fluctuation in pacing, we come to Macbeth’s “Is this a dagger which I see before me,” [II.1.40], and Williams’ production comes into its own…

The power of Williams’ production lies in the fact he is not afraid to create haunting images and let the text speak for itself, and create the fullness of the picture. Notwithstanding, some moments are lost in the vastness of the Sydney Theatre…  While Williams appears to have borrowed an aesthetic from Messers Stone and Andrews at times, he instead imbues it with heart and poetry, a moving theatrical grace, and each moment exists within this production’s world with a robust theatrical imagination and simplicity of stagecraft….

Alice Babidge’s design is theatre at its simplest, most pure form, allowing the words to speak volumes, and using only the most necessary props required to tell the story. Apart form a lavish banquet feast, hers is an empty stage (recalling Peter Brook’s famous volume) where magic and poetry happens, in flashes of inspired stagecraft and inspiration…

Hugo Weaving’s Macbeth, meanwhile, carves up the stage and delivers a menacing but tender portrait of Shakespeare’s popular tyrant. While he seems on occasion to rant, his voice is so captivating and sonorous, so rich and warm that from the first “So foul and fair a day I have not seen,” [I.3.39] you are hooked, line and sinker, caught in his net, dragged down with him into the very jaws of hell itself, and what a ride it is. You cannot take your eyes off him, as he strides about the stage in his blue jeans and shirt, delivering retribution and bloody execution on all and sundry. Weaving’s Macbeth is also the most affecting Macbeth I’ve seen; you actually empathise – and sympathise – with Macbeth the man, caught in his own (waking) dream as he is. His banquet scene is harrowing, so too is his seeing the witches’ apparitions, and he howls, sniffs, gnashes his teeth, trembles and tries to hide as best he can but to no avail – the horrors he has committed are as much in front of him as they are inside his head, and they weigh as heavily on us as they do him. By the time he fights Macduff at the climax, swinging his great broadsword around in the flashes of the strobe, we – like him – are exhausted, have been through the wringer with him; unlike Macbeth, though we may have been to hell, we are allowed to come back from its depths and leave the theatre at the end…

Kip Williams’ Macbeth is “bloody, bold and resolute,” [IV.1.85], and seeks the poetry in the darkness of Shakespeare’s equivocating tragedy. Although it takes a while to find its stride, once there it rages downwards, helter-skelter, on its blistering spiral trajectory, tearing at our imaginations, drawing us into his nightmarish world…”

“Saw Hugo Weaving in @SydneyTheatreCo Macbeth last night. What an actor! A corker of a performance. ” Catherine Henderson via Twitter

Jane, SYOP: “This is one of those evolving shows that the further into its season you see it the more fortunate you will probably be because by all accounts, the show I saw last week (and yes, it still feels like I’m sitting in a very crowded economy class flight) is not the show people saw when it opened… There’s something to be said for director Kip Williams if he is taking feedback on board and constantly tweaking this show. It tells me that he is not precious about criticism and is open to the possibilities of how this show might theatrically be stronger and better…

The emptiness and stillness of the first Act was replaced by the spectacle and flourish of action, heightened by blinding fog and voices in the murky soup of the stage. The highlight came for me when Banquo’s (Paula Arundell) ghost sits at Macbeth’s table. Weaving’s breakdown as Macbeth was raw and confronting and it was there the intimacy of the contrived staging was a piece of magic…

Williams’ seems to have stripped ‘Macbeth’ of any humour. This version is dark and ghostly. It’s like watching a dream sequence. There’s something ethereal and ephemeral about it unfolding right in front of you, moving past you and yet, you’re not there. You are the empty seats, sometimes filled with the players (who is audience and who are we in this play?) and then they and we are gone. His vision encapsulates the temporal experience of theatre and we are at the heart of it in this experiment with proxemics.”

Our Sydney Correspondent Yvette’s (@LyridsMC) post-performance photo of Hugo, with her gift of vintage wine glasses 4 August

Suzy Wrong, Suzy Goes See: “In the process of art-making, it is often the spirit of experimentation that elevates a work to heights of significance and esteem. Major theatre companies around the world with greater access to funding and other resources do not always prioritise innovation in their repertoire, often choosing instead to deliver entertainment that their patrons would readily embrace. The decision to stage a version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth with a prominent actor in the title role, exemplifies the kind of tension that exists where a show’s anticipated mass popularity and the expectations that come along with it, threatens the commitment to artistic risk, in the trepidation of alienating audiences or indeed, underestimating their ability to relate to unconventional interpretations…

Kip Williams’ direction of the piece reflects an awareness of the diversity in his audience’s tastes. Shakespeare is left untainted and the celebrity actor is given ample room to flex his dramatic muscles for his legions of fans, but the stage is thoroughly explored around those prerequisites. Williams gives the crowd what they have come for, but also offers up fresh concepts and unexpected flourishes that prevent the production from ever appearing unoriginal or unambitious. Williams’ vision does not rewrite the 400 year-old play, and neither does it add significantly to its themes and ideas, but he uses the text to explore the nature of the art form in all its physical and emotive possibilities.” (The author promises the full review ion the next issue of Auditorium magazine) .

“At @SydneyTheatreCo for The Scottish Play #Shakespeare #selfie with #HugoWeaving” Suzy Wrong via twitter/Instagram

Episystemics: “Saw Macbeth tonight with the STC, Hugo Weaving starring in the main role.  We were sat on the stage for this production, looking back out at the empty seats of the Sydney Theatre, which was quite the experience.  Very good production, I thought.  Weaving was excellent.”

“Guess who I got front row tickets to see? Dis guy. #Macbeth #HugoWeaving #theatre #SydneyTheatreCompany #bless” Georgina Holt via Twitter/Instagram

Theresa Willsteed, A Book and a Good Lie Down: “Macbeth at the Sydney Theatre Company grips you in its thrall, and doesn’t let go until the final sword falls to the ground and all the slaughter’s done. The eight actors – Paula Arundell, Kate Box, Ivan Donato, Eden Falk, John Gaden, Melita Jurisic, Robert Menzies and Hugo Weaving as Macbeth – engage at every second…

It’s theatrical and elemental. A sword drags on earth, shining rain falls, and mist, ‘fog and filthy air’ gust through. The language sears with clarity, the characters are vividly present, and our imaginations are constantly engaged. We’re around the ancient campfire, engrossed as the story unfolds. A witch zanily appears after an actor slams his face in a cake and looks up, snarling. An empty crown held up suggests all the horror of Macbeth beheaded at the play’s end…

Hugo Weaving’s Macbeth is a sturdy warrior, complex, all too human, masculine, unpredictable, unstoppable. He compulsively resists and responds to his wife’s hellish advice and kisses. He cries like a shocked child at his first awful murder. He goes on to order more killings like an old hand at terror, with women and children among the victims… He physically recoils from and fights off Banquo’s ghost (and his own guilt-madness). He’s shocked into profound paralysed silence at the news of his wife’s death. And finally, he’s a tyrant in battle, fighting for his life, a soul ripped apart by its own darkness…

Weaving takes you right into Macbeth’s disintegrating humanity. His transformation from returning hero to feared and isolated despot is riveting – you can’t look away, you’re with him until the end. His Macbeth is haunting, bursting with life even when distraught with fear. As he changes from tough soldier to thuggish murderer, he changes physically too, still battling, but more and more weighed down by his crimes…

It’s the darkness at the heart of the drama that makes it both horror story and tragedy, and keeps you thinking about this play and production for a long time after…It’s reminded me of how vital Shakespeare is to us. There’s no missing it when you see a production like this. He knows pretty much everything about us. The riches he gives are so much more than a ripping good story with a satisfying end. ”

THIS JUST IN: STC has posted a lovely compendium of supplemental Macbeth material, including student guides, trivia handbooks, new production and rehearsal photos and other resources for the curious. Here’s a small sampling of the treasure therein:

Brett Boardman’s Macbeth production photos (plus next two) via STC’s Macbeth Resources

Macbeth rehearsals Photo: Grant Sparkes-Carroll, STC Macbeth Resources

Mystery Road Interview, Reviews, UK & US Distribution

Total Film published an unusual interview with Hugo Weaving for the promotion of Mystery Road’s UK opening (29 August); it features the somewhat gimmicky conceit of using questions entirely composed of movie quotes. Fortunately Hugo’s answers are so natural and charming that the whole thing works. Here’s my scan:

So yes, Yvette, he’ll definitely be using those wine glasses. Might even dance afterward. 😉 I’d love to see a full transcript of this interview, if one exists: i have no idea if Hugo’s answers were edited from a longer interview in which the format was explained to him, or if he did so via phone or email, filling in answers at his leisure. There are some oddball segues, like discussing his childhood travels in response to the old Dirty Harry bit of sarcasm “Do you feel lucky?” 😉 There are some aspects of his life– like that– which he’s developed concise methods of talking about over the years, but he always adds something completely new and delightful without getting too confessional.

Mystery Road opens 29 August in the UK, distributed by Axiom Films. The US distributor Well Go USA has finally announced a release date for the DVD/Blu-Ray: 14 October. I’m still hoping for a theatrical release here, but have to say it doesn’t look good though VOD and cable are likely in the future. Mystery Road deserves to be seen on the largest screen possible, so if you missed its festival screenings or Australian release, try to see it at whichever friend owns the largest HDTV setup. (Or maybe your own? Lucky you. Expect calls from Hugo fan friends in your area.) 😉 Anyhow, you can see the pre-release box art at Ace Showbiz. Gotta say I much prefer the sepia tone box art to the garishly-hued US promo posters, though the laconic Aussie poster featuring Aaron Pedersen is probably still my favorite. Amazon is taking pre-orders, but as always, do shop around. No specifics on the DVD extras yet, but I’d assume they’re comparable to the Australian release.

You can read reviews of the film at The Edge UK and Total Film.

In Other Hugo News

Craig Monahan was interviewed by the New Zealand Entertainment Podcast, promoting the NZ release of Healing.

Cat fanciers in the Hugo fandom (ie probably the majority of the Hugo fandom– Hugo himself is a longtime cat owner) will want to check out Cats on Film’s post about Proof and its feline star Ugly The Cat. Some interesting trivia: in Jocelyn Moorhouse’s original screenplay for Proof, published in 1991, Ugly has a larger role, is adopted by Martin and is seen in many additional scenes at Martin’s house.

Tim Winton’s The Turning recently re-aired on ABC (Australia); Australian viewers can now watch individual segments on iView.

Two photos from Rene Nowytarger’s magnificent photo session for The Weekend Australian’s Macbeth cover story.  (Newspix) Nine more below:

…more to come! 😉
(All above photos: Renee Nowytarger/Newspix)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s