The Spring 2000 production of Macbeth was the first by RoughCast TheatreCompany, which is committed to bringing ‘interesting’ plays to rural East Anglia. Macbeth was chosen due to its relevance, relative ease of access and vitality: three attributes that we hope will be true of all of our productions.
In deciding (with the cast) how to interpret and produce Macbeth we looked at its structure and meaning. Night, darkness, even blackness, brood over the tragedy. Antitheses abound and uncertainties are ever present – outward appearances are rarely what they seem. After the early opposition of “Fair is foul and foul is fair”, with the entry of Macbeth a struggle commenced between trust and treason, kindness and malice, good and evil, nature and the unnatural. Even the landscape with castles and heath and rapid transitions from day and night expressed the antithetical structure of the play.
The uncertainties began with the weird sisters. What are they? What role do they have in the play? Shakespeare did not invent them, in that they existed in his main source material. He obviously shaped them, however, and gave them words. How much supernatural power they exert is crucial to an understanding of the character and actions of Macbeth. If they are simply old crones then Macbeth can be held responsible for his own acts and his crimes fall heavily upon him and Lady Macbeth. If the sisters can determine behaviour, control fate and know what is to be, then Macbeth is helpless; unable to choose. Do the weird sisters seek out Macbeth because of what he is?
If the play is more about universal truths then the setting of it in Scotland is incidental. It is a vehicle for exploring issues of temptation and fall, struggles against conscience and concepts of what is evil. It is Shakespeare’s genius that the Macbeth’s, unlike many modern day counterparts, might ultimately be pitied rather than hated, both reduced into forms of guilt induced madness.
Vanessa Webster & Paul Baker