For more images from the production, click here
"Darren Donohue is a very interesting young actor, and his Macbeth
is a serious interpretation of the great role. He has presence,
a voice over which he has total control and that great gift of the
theatre, stage presence. Yvonne ” Hara's Lady Macbeth, with less
to do, does it very well, and Nick Devlin's Banquo is a robust and
persuasive performance [ … ] Imaginative departures from traditional
Gerry Colgan, The Irish Times, Mon 15th April
We presented a dynamic production of the Shakespearian tragedy
of blood and ambition which opened in Riverbank, Newbridge on 10th
April and returned after a tour on 23rd May 2002. The production
was part of our educational programme, in that it was sold mainly
to schools and colleges studying the text, with matinees and post
show discussions as part of the touring package. See below for
a selection of director's notes from the programme.
Macbeth was be played by Darren Donohue and Lady Macbeth
by Yvonne O' Hara. Members of our Kildare Youth Theatre
and of our Children's Theatre (Crooked Mice) took part in
the production, giving them the opportunity to be involved with
a professional company at this level. In addition, student actors
from VTOS Theatre Studies played in the production. Other
roles were played by Steve Gunn (Macduff), Nick Devlin
(Banquo), Sarah Kearney (Lady Macduff), Frank Conlan
(Duncan), Stuart Mc Glynn (Ross), Eric Higgins (Lennox),
Keith Burke (Malcolm), Ian Hollinshead (Fleance).
The production was directed by Peter Hussey, designed by
CiarŠn Aspell and stage managed by Bonnie Mc Cormick.
Deborah Ni Chaoimhe designed costumes.
It toured to Theatre Royal, Waterford (April 24 -
26) and to the Garage Theatre, Monaghan (May 13 - 15).
Representing the witches
In considering the possibilities for presenting the witches, we
were concerned to find a way that would stress their ethereal nature
and their ability to invoke fear. In Elizabethan England belief
in the power of witchcraft was strong and so a theatre could present
them visibly on stage, in the certain knowledge that the audience
would recognise and fear them. Today, popular culture has shifted
the representation of evil from the visible to the invisible, from
the physical to the spiritual. In addition, as the best film-makers
know, to truly invoke fear you should leave as much as possible
up to the audience's imagination for nothing is more frightening
than that which you conjure up yourself. Therefore, the witches
are invisible, allowing themselves to be felt, heard and summoned
by those who have a mind for it. They are there if you really want
them to be there.
How to kill a king
Being a monarch was a dangerous business in Britain. Several fell
to the axe, blade or rope-weapons usually wielded by their uncles,
powerful nobles, siblings and relatives. However, when Shakespeare
wrote Macbeth Elizabeth I had just died of natural causes
having ruled for decades. Her successor, James I, believed in divine
absolutism, that is, that kings were agents of God and had a divine
right to rule. In presenting Macbeth to James I, Shakespeare
is, on one hand, saying that only those possessed by the Devil would
dream of killing a monarch.
On the other hand he is catching something of the spirit of his
time, and suggesting that once the king is seen to be vulnerable,
human, infallible, not to mention wicked, then he is fair game and
should be removed by whatever means necessary. Less than 30 years
after Shakespeare died, James' son, Charles I, was executed during
a popular revolt led by, not the warring nobility, but the emerging
middle class.In that short space of time Britain saw a profound
shift in popular and cultural attitude regarding the sanctity of
In the beginning of our play the Macbeths are embarking on a truly
dreadful deed, beyond the imaginative scope of most of those around
them. By the end of the play we realise that the boy king, Malcolm,
has little hope of survival, now that Macbeth has shown the lords
that all it takes is a knife, a party, and the cover of darkness.
Public and Private
The language of Macbeth shifts between the formal, public declarations
of loyalty, welcome, communal ritual, and the informal, private
deliberations and anxieties of the individual. The images Shakespeare
employs for formal speeches are, for the most part, suitably forced.
But those he deploys in private conversations and in heated reflections
are vivid, electric and compelling. The dialogue between characters
when they are 'in private' is tougher and sharper than much of what
is found in modern drama.
| Duncan Confers Succession
In this production we have used the public, formal discourse to
help us build images of the feudal, hierarchical and strict culture
prevailing when Duncan is king. The characters bark, bow, stiffen
and act as one unit in this rigid society. That is the price they
pay for order, stability, unity.
This social order, however, is becoming harder and harder to maintain-rebellion,
civil war, and invasion are all symptoms of an authority slipping.
The private discourse allows us to create contemporary gestures,
mannerisms, whisperings, mumbles and hesitancies.
For us, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are an early prototype of the
Machiavellian modern partnership, the type that would blossom with
the burgeoning capitalist world and who will bend the inhibiting
medieval social order to their will. They are presumably what Shakespeare
saw all around him and, crucially, what was within himself as well
(property owner, business man, profiteer). Possibly, as a writer,
Shakespeare uses characters in other plays as developments and as
experiments for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (Goneril, Regan and Edmund
in Lear; Tamara and Aaron in Titus Andronicus; Volumnia
and Coriolanus in Coriolanus). They are eager, fascinating,
self-seeking individuals who are still loosely tethered to the old,
formal, public world of medieval order but who are straining greedily
towards the promising utopia of capitalism and industry. If modern
tragedy can be said to have a unifying theme in the way that Greek
tragedy arguably did, then it is perhaps provided not so much by
the ultimate victory of these characters (salesmen, bureaucrats,
power brokers, slave traders) but by the price they paid to create
that victory-the suppression of the regulatory human qualities.
Lady Macbeth's invocation of the spirits to turn her milk to gall
so that she can achieve her fell purpose is the moral cornerstone
on which their progress is built.
The endless, king becoming graces
Duncan comes in a line of interesting patriarchal figures found
in Shakespeare - all of whom make some disastrous mistake of judgement
early in the play that sparks untold misery for those around them
and for the world in general. The mistake is usually connected to
a very public conferring of power or succession (Lear dividing his
kingdom and leaving it to the wrong children; Titus nominating the
wrong successor for emperor). How many people have to die - often
horribly - before a patriarch learns something about humanity?
Shakespeare seems to imply, at the end of these plays, that the
suffering has been worth it because the patriarch has been humanised,
has found inner peace. Thus, the world sacrifices itself to the
edification of old men who, in the process of learning about it,
destroy it. Duncan, however, is a little different in this regard
than the other kings in Shakespeare. His mistake lies not with the
choice of successor; rather, it is in the choice of his allies and
friends. Because he has invested trust in the wrong people in the
past-and now again, in Macbeth-the country has gone to war. Additionally,
his timing in announcing the succession could have been better.
If Macbeth needed a spur to prick the sides of his intent, then
this could easily have been it.
Shakespeare goes to great lengths to expound the king-becoming
graces, and to contrast good kings with bad ones (Edward of England
and Duncan are pitted against Macbeth in this respect). However,
the scene in which kingship is examined by Macduff and the apprentice
king, Malcolm, (Act 4 Scene 3) is perhaps the most overwritten in
the play and causes several production problems, most notably in
that it breaks the mounting tension. The scenes before it are action
packed and indeed some braking device is needed before the build-up
to the final climax, but this one is far too long. The message that
benign kings are divine and bad ones diabolic is emphasised to the
point that it becomes repetitive and didactic. Presumably this is
for the benefit of his patron, James I, who fervently believed in
divine absolutism. All of which may go to show that it is never
a good idea for artists, then as now, to dilute their art to suit
the expectations of those funding it.