The Scottish play comes to Unity Theatre

THE WAY TO DUSTY DEATH: Cast in the title role of Unity Theatre’s production Macbeth, Joe Martin relishes the universal meaning and the language in the handful of lines in Macbeth’s famous “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” speech. The Scottish general has lost his humanity after murdering his king out of rampant ambition, and he has lost his guilt-ridden wife to suicide, but he still loves his “partner in crime”, says Martin. Joe Martin previously played Macbeth in a Paul McLaughlin-directed production of Shakespeare’s tragedy when it was staged in Gisborne’s Wharfshed 2 in 1993.
Pictures by Elenor Gill
Macbeth fights Macduff: Macbeth hears more prophecies from the weird sisters and descends into paranoia and more bloodshed. The weird sisters’ prophecies begin to come true, but not favourably for Macbeth. Peter Ray plays Macduff, who aims for revenge after Macbeth murders his wife and children.
THE WEIRD SISTERS: On their return from the battlefield, Scottish general Macbeth and Lord Banquo (Martin Gibson) encounter three “weird sisters” played by Niki Ovendon (left), Elizabeth Boyce and Julia Duffy. Among their prophecies, they tell Macbeth he will “be king hereafter”. Banquo warns Macbeth about taking heed of the weird sisters but back at the castle, Lady Macbeth overrides Macbeth’s objections and persuades him to kill King Duncan (Arran Dunn).
BLOODY DAGGERS: Lady Macbeth (Beth Morton) frames Duncan’s sleeping servants for the murder by placing bloody daggers on them. Although the regicide has thrown all nature into upheaval, a drunken porter scene provides comic relief. The king’s sons flee and Macbeth is crowned king. To secure his safety, Macbeth has Banquo murdered, but at a banquet that night sees his ghost.

THE minimalistic set and staging of Unity Theatre’s production of Macbeth means the production comes down to the words, character and acting, says Joe Martin who is cast in the title role.

“I love the part. You go from one extreme to another.

“As you do it, you realise the genius of Shakespeare in the majesty and beauty of the words as you say them.”

On the other hand, neither Macbeth nor Lady Macbeth are above the prosaic from time to time.

“What’s done is done,” says Lady Macbeth in a throw-away line about the murder of their king.

Many such phrases invented by Shakespeare are commonplace now.

Even the very word the plot hinges on was invented by the playwright for Macbeth.

“The word assassination did not exist before this play,” Martin says.

“The word assassin did. It comes from the Arabic word hashishin, but not assassination. In that word is the essence of the main characters.”

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are emotionally stretched to the extreme.

“The scene I like the most is the banquet scene around the middle of the play, when Banquo’s ghost appears.”

By this stage Macbeth has murdered King Duncan and has had his battlefield companion Banquo slain in case the general’s suspicions were aroused.

“Just when Macbeth is celebrating with his mates, Banquo’s ghost appears.

“First Macbeth is in control, then he’s out of control when he sees Banquo, then in control again when Banquo vanishes, then out of control when he reappears.

“Then he tells us he’s so steeped in blood he’s going to go on. He can’t stop now.”

He is still a good character, though, Martin says. After the post-battle encounter with the prophetic “weird sisters” he backs away from the thought of assassinating Duncan to become king, except his wife calls him a coward.

“For half of the play she wears the pants but just before the banquet scene that changes. Macbeth is at the top of his game,” Martin says.

“‘I’ll keep myself alone,’ he says.

“The other great thrill is the ‘tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’ speech.”

This comes after his conscience-stricken wife’s suicide, which leaves Macbeth alone and tilting towards despair.

“Every time I do it I get a thrill. Your character is saying some of the most poignant lines from all literature. He speaks to every human being.”

As an actor, the sense of when to move and when to stay still can be felt in the words, Martin says.

“That’s the beauty and the majesty of the language.”

THE minimalistic set and staging of Unity Theatre’s production of Macbeth means the production comes down to the words, character and acting, says Joe Martin who is cast in the title role.

“I love the part. You go from one extreme to another.

“As you do it, you realise the genius of Shakespeare in the majesty and beauty of the words as you say them.”

On the other hand, neither Macbeth nor Lady Macbeth are above the prosaic from time to time.

“What’s done is done,” says Lady Macbeth in a throw-away line about the murder of their king.

Many such phrases invented by Shakespeare are commonplace now.

Even the very word the plot hinges on was invented by the playwright for Macbeth.

“The word assassination did not exist before this play,” Martin says.

“The word assassin did. It comes from the Arabic word hashishin, but not assassination. In that word is the essence of the main characters.”

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are emotionally stretched to the extreme.

“The scene I like the most is the banquet scene around the middle of the play, when Banquo’s ghost appears.”

By this stage Macbeth has murdered King Duncan and has had his battlefield companion Banquo slain in case the general’s suspicions were aroused.

“Just when Macbeth is celebrating with his mates, Banquo’s ghost appears.

“First Macbeth is in control, then he’s out of control when he sees Banquo, then in control again when Banquo vanishes, then out of control when he reappears.

“Then he tells us he’s so steeped in blood he’s going to go on. He can’t stop now.”

He is still a good character, though, Martin says. After the post-battle encounter with the prophetic “weird sisters” he backs away from the thought of assassinating Duncan to become king, except his wife calls him a coward.

“For half of the play she wears the pants but just before the banquet scene that changes. Macbeth is at the top of his game,” Martin says.

“‘I’ll keep myself alone,’ he says.

“The other great thrill is the ‘tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’ speech.”

This comes after his conscience-stricken wife’s suicide, which leaves Macbeth alone and tilting towards despair.

“Every time I do it I get a thrill. Your character is saying some of the most poignant lines from all literature. He speaks to every human being.”

As an actor, the sense of when to move and when to stay still can be felt in the words, Martin says.

“That’s the beauty and the majesty of the language.”

Unity Theatre’s winter production of Shakespeare’s popular tragedy Macbeth turns to the stripped-back stage of the Globe Theatre.

Unity Theatre, Ormond Rd, August 18-25 (7.30pm). Tickets available from the i-Site, Grey Street.

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