Sunday, 10 June 2012

One-man Macbeth: Behind the scenes at ‘The Scottish Play’

Alan Cumming’s one-man Macbeth is the year’s most talked-about piece of theatre. Susan Mansfield goes behind the scenes to find out how it’s done.

It’s all in a twist of the body, a shift in the tone of voice, the smallest of facial inflexions, but it’s enough. One moment, Alan Cumming is Macbeth, the next he is Lady Macbeth. Moving fluidly from one character to the other, he acts out the charged, sexy encounter which begins with Macbeth resolving not to kill Duncan, his king and house guest, and ends with murder.

“Fan. Tas. Tic!” enthuses John Tiffany, who is co-directing the National Theatre of Scotland production with New Yorker Andy Goldberg, the man behind smash hit The Bomb-itty of Errors and Boney M musical Daddy Cool. A taller, quieter figure, he remains seated, but lifts a big hand in a thumbs-up. Then it’s back to the detail: “If you arch your back just a little more when you’re here,” says Tiffany. “Like a cat. Yeah…”

Cumming says later that this is the pivotal scene of the play. “Although this is a play about kings and queens and violence and battles and deaths, actually it’s about a decision being made, and how that affects everyone else’s lives. It’s really about that moment when you look into someone’s eyes and they look at you and you think, ‘OK, we’re gonna do it’. That split second, and everything reels out from that moment.”

Cumming’s one-man Macbeth has quickly become the year’s most talked-about piece of theatre. Speculation about it extends from the red carpets of New York and Hollywood to the taxi drivers of Glasgow. Cumming’s impish, blood-streaked face has been freaking out travellers on the Glasgow subway for the last month. Everyone wants to know how you can do Macbeth with a single actor. Now, having seen Cumming in action, I begin to see how you can.

Read more (with photos) at The Scotsman

Similarly reported by The Telegraph 

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