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Macbeth Rehearsal Diary: Week One

‘The room is teeming with life and a buzz that is palpable’

The cast of Macbeth in rehearsals. Photos by Pamela Raith

As The Watermill Ensemble create a bold new production of Macbeth, Assistant Director Robert Kirby takes us behind the scenes of the first week of rehearsals.

The Watermill Ensemble return and once more unto the breach they go (wrong play, I know). Appropriately, the weather for our first week of rehearsals was bitterly cold with snow that would make Eskimos consider emigrating and the Watermill ducks and swans markedly grumpier than usual. However, this weather was absolutely no bad thing, transporting us, with no acting required, to the biting battle weary Heathlands of a barren Scotland. 

With thermals on, the first day of rehearsals for Macbeth covered a tonne of ground. At the start of the day, designer Katie Lias and director Paul Hart shared the set model box with the company and staff from all departments of the theatre. Paul and Katie discussed the ideas underpinning the concept of the show, with its influences taken from Tarantino films and musical inspiration from The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash and The Animals (to name but a few).

Katie has created a design that radiates a sense of devastated decadence and of something left behind. The set takes us from a military bunker to Macbeth’s castle reimagined as a hotel, with bullet holes and crumbling walls aplenty. Katie talked about the specificity of the set and the way in which that helps an audience to engage imaginatively in the world that has been created, but at the same time she has created a tool kit that allows the company a freedom to experiment in the rehearsal room.

After a read through, Musical Director Maimuna Memon took us through some of her arrangements for the show and throughout the week, the company continued to work on the music. I am forever blown away by the ease with which the company absorb nearly all the songs in such a short time whilst practically playing them standing on their heads.

The remainder of week one focused on beginnings… the beginnings of setting up dynamic relationships between people within the play and exploring a physical vocabulary true to the world we are creating. As we move towards week two, the room is teeming with life and a buzz that is palpable.

Something wicked this way comes… 

Robert Kirby
Assistant Director

Macbeth is touring the UK in September and October 2019. See the tour dates here.

UK tour supported by The Sheepdrove Trust.

This rehearsal diary was written prior to the first performances of Macbeth at The Watermill in 2019.

Director’s Playlist: Macbeth

Listen to the songs inspiring the creation of Macbeth.

Principal Sponsor of Macbeth at The Watermill

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