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Macbeth Rehearsal Diary: Weeks Two and Three

‘The atmosphere is always collaborative and creates an environment where almost anything is possible’

The cast in rehearsals. Photos by Pamela Raith

From a world of witches to swimming in the river, Assistant Director Robert Kirby takes us into the Macbeth rehearsal room with the latest diary.

First thing on a Monday morning, as our actors’ alarm clocks trilled and their cries of ‘What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?’ (wrong play, I know) rang out across the onsite accommodation, week two of rehearsals began.  

And what better way to start the week than by continuing to deepen and excavate the relationship between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. Billy Postlethwaite (Macbeth) & Emma McDonald (Lady Macbeth) worked with director Paul Hart to discover clues about the couple’s individual and collective complex psychology. Whilst new things are being discovered all the time, they spoke about the relationship being one that at its core is arguably as romantic and loving as they come. But with challenges at play, such as having been separated by war and the text indicating that they may have lost a child, there’s a possibility that their murderous plotting could be the thing that brings a spark back to their relationship and fuels their passion. All quite intense – my parents just go for a meal at Pizza Express when they feel they need to zhush things up a bit.  

Getting these and any of the ideas that are discussed in the room up on their feet and trying them on for size is, of course, no easy thing. But the atmosphere between Paul and the company is always collaborative and creates an environment where almost anything is possible. With rehearsals continuing into the evenings and on Saturdays, each company member has their own way of keeping themselves in balance. Some have become one with the ducks and go for a pre-rehearsal dip in the river, others walk in the surrounding hills and some practically move into the local spa and gym for a wind down or half a bench press. 

During weeks two and three, Movement Director Tom Jackson Greaves spent time exploring the world of the witches. Tom is working towards creating a sense of foreboding in our ensemble of witches, and his brilliant process forms a chorus that taps into something primal, where the witches can function as clearly defined individuals as well as an unnerving group, always embodying an attitude of ‘you please me, I don’t please you’. 

The rehearsal process continues to tackle some of the most challenging parts of the play; we are weaving between battles and haunted banquets, as well as honing the music and getting our heads around scene and costume changes. Most of the ten strong company also play multiple roles and each are instrumental to tell the story, therefore, no relationship or through line of character is overlooked. 

There was a ‘stagger’ of the first half of the play, with everyone fully expecting to stop and start as we went. But, the ensemble were as on it as they usually are, and we ended up doing a run straight through to the interval. It’s looking good, but we’ve plenty to crack on with tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow (I mean, unless it’s a Sunday)…  

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.

To read Week One of the rehearsal diary, click here.

Principal Sponsor of Macbeth at The Watermill

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