mulls over motivations and audience reactions as he performs MacBeth in the United States.
As reported by Yahoo news, Preparing for each MacBeth performance reminds Patrick Stewart of his father, who was a Sergeant Major in the British Army. "Before I leave my dressing room to go onstage every evening, the last thing I do is to put on my military cap. And when I look in the mirror, my father is looking back at me."
MacBeth's military exploits eventually led him to become a general, then an aristocrat, a murdered and finally, a King. In the play, Kate Fleetwood (Lady MacBeth) is the wife of the director of the play. Neither that, nor the age gap between them, fazes Stewart. "She is so committed," said Stewart. "She gives everything to this relationship onstage, allows me to manhandle her, gives me all the support I need, and that makes me feel safe. Kate and I talked through every aspect of this marriage before we even started. There is so much that Shakespeare left unexplained. Had either of them been married before? What happened to the child or children they mention? What connects them? That's the backstory. The audience doesn't see it but we have to know everything about them."
The transition from loyal servant of the Crown to evil tyrant is part of the fascination of the play. Would MacBeth had gone after the king had he not been married to a ruthlessly ambitious wife? "We talked about this," says Stewart. "In fact, on my dressing room wall, in every theatre we've played this Macbeth, is a quotation from Myra Hindley. It says, 'Evil can be a spiritual experience, too.' It's that 'too' that's most frightening." Myra Hindley was a British woman who in the mid-1960s, participated in the abduction, sexual abuse, torture and murder of five children after she met Ian Brady, a man with a criminal past and history of violence.
Stewart compared British and American audiences. "Here [in America], audiences laugh more. They find every possible comic moment in Macbeth, which you wouldn't have thought has a great many, and laugh out loud. When we opened at BAM [Brooklyn Academy of Music], Rupert, who wasn't with us, was worried that the play was running four minutes longer than it had in the West End. When he got here he realized that we weren't milking it; it was the audience reaction that was taking the extra time. These audiences are intelligent. They understand the issues in the play immediately. They react, not just by laughing, but by experiencing it with us. And they are so generous."
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