Skip to main content

Kirsty Besterman and Michael Nardone – Macbeth

Michael Nardone and Kirsty Besterman were given the keys to the kingdom when they were cast as Lord and Lady Macbeth in Rufus Norris’ National Theatre production of Shakespeare’s Scottish play. Picking up the mantles of Rory Kinnear and Anne-Marie Duff, who played the murderously ambitious couple for the London run of Norris’ apocalyptic-looking production proved irresistible to both actors, who came to it with strong track records of doing classic plays onstage. In what sounds like a radical reinvention of Shakespeare’s play, the production’s dark mix of the personal and the political nevertheless cast a spell on them in a way where the flesh and blood everyday passions of the couple are brought home.

 “I wanted to try and give Macbeth a real edge as an honest kind of man,” says Fife-born Nardone, who will be appearing on a Scottish stage for the first time in several years. “His relationship with the king is really important, and at the beginning of the play he knows his position and understands the virtue of loyalty. Then, as everyone in the world who’s ever existed does, he becomes tempted by something else, and he and his wife try to do it together, but they mess it up.”

As Nardone sees it, “The emotional relationship between Macbeth and his wife is crucial. They’ve been through this tragedy of losing their children, and they try to fulfil this vision. We can see today on TV all the time what happens to people who get a taste for that sort of thing, and for me the tragedy of Macbeth is that a perfectly good relationship is destroyed.
He’s reliant on her, and he’s the muscle, but she’s the brains. It’s all quite sad to see what happens.”

For Besterman too, the relationship between the Macbeths is the play’s driving force.

“I’ve always wanted to play Lady Macbeth with them having a strong marriage at the start,” she says. “They’ve had this terrible loss of their children, and they have this language between them. I don’t think Lady Macbeth is as mad as she’s sometimes played, certainly not at the start of the play when Macbeth has come back from the war and there’s this real passion between them, and they want to feel like that all the time.

“It’s obviously an epic story about murder, but there’s something there as well about this couple having an idea, being impulsive and not thinking it through, then finding themselves in a situation where they can’t cope with what they’ve done. He can’t cope with power, and instead of this incredibly loving and passionate thing they had they end up with this broken-down relationship that destroys them.”

Beyond the Macbeths’ domestic turmoil, there is a much bigger picture at play in an onstage world that seems to be tearing itself apart.

“The concept is quite specific,” Besterman explains. “It’s futuristic. It’s civil war. I love the darkness of it. There’s passion and loss and sadness, and the way Michael plays Macbeth, he does it so, yes, he’s a monster, but he’s still vulnerable, and that comes from what’s going on in the world around him.”

For Nardone, Macbeth’s ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow’ soliloquy has a far greater resonance than a reflection on his personal downfall.

“He’s not so much questioning the meaning of his own life,” Nardone says, “but of the whole meaning of existence and all the things you put up with. I think of that myself when I look around me and see people living in poverty and pain, and it makes you wonder why.”

Besterman and Nardone are no strangers to Scotland’s stages. Besterman appeared in productions of Noel Coward’s play, Private Lives, and Laura Wade’s stage adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel, Tipping The Velvet, at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. Besterman was last in Edinburgh earlier this year at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre in Out of Joint’s production of Roland Schimmelpfennig’s play, Winter Solstice.

Elsewhere, in terms of Shakespearian roles, Besterman played Portia in The Merchant of Venice at Shakespeare’s Globe, Cordelia in King Lear with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Bianca in Cheek by Jowl’s production of Othello.

“I suppose it’s quite a diversion for me,” she says of playing Lady Macbeth. “I’ve done a lot of Noel Coward and camp roles, and now here I am stomping about in Doc Martens and vests.”

Nardone first came to prominence in the original production of David Harrower’s modern classic, Knives in Hens, at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. He also appeared in the world premiere of Gregory Burke’s debut play, Gagarin Way at the Traverse and the National Theatre, and worked with Burke again on the National Theatre of Scotland production of Black Watch.

Macbeth will be Nardone’s first major stage role since he appeared with with the National Theatre in 2014 as the Duke of Cornwall in Sam Mendes’ production of King Lear starring Simon Russell Beale in the title role. Nardone previously worked with Norris at the Young Vic in the title role of Tanya Ronder’s adaptation of Lope de Vega’s seventeenth century Spanish play, Peribanez. Having focused on TV and film over the last few years with regular roles in the likes of River City and HBO series, Rome, Macbeth was too good an offer to turn down.

“I couldn’t really say no,” Nardone says. “I’m 51 now, and in a couple of years’ time I probably wouldn’t be able to do it., but for me, the vision of this production to me is very acute, because you can see in it the result of what happens in a divided society. One little bit of unrest, and everything falls apart and descends into chaos. That’s something that currently doesn’t feel very far away. I’m old enough to remember the three-day week and saw everything that happened in the 1970s, and there’s a clarity to this production that makes Macbeth a story for our times.” 

Macbeth, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, October 20-27; His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, November 7-10; Theatre Royal, Glasgow, February 19-23 2019.

The Herald, October 23rd 2018


ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Peter Brook – The Prisoner

Peter Brook is no stranger to Scotland, ever since the guru of European and world theatre first brought his nine-hour epic, The Mahabharata, to Glasgow in 1988. That was at the city’s old transport museum, which by 1990 had become Tramway, the still-functioning permanent venue that opened up Glasgow and Scotland as a major channel for international theatre in a way that had previously only been on offer at Edinburgh International Festival.
Brook and his Paris-based Theatre des Bouffes du Nord company’s relationship with Tramway saw him bring his productions of La Tragedie de Carmen, La Tempete, Pellease et Mellisande, The Man Who…, and Oh Les Beaux Jours – the French version of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days – to Glasgow.
Thirty years on from The Mahabharata, Brook comes to EIF with another piece of pan-global theatre as part of a residency by Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, which Brook has led since he decamped to Paris from London in the early 1970s. The current Edinburgh residency has alr…

Romeo And Juliet - Shakespeare's Globe Comes to Glasgow

Open-air Shakepeares are a summer-time perennial of the theatre calendar, attracting picnicking audiences as much as midges. More often than not, such romps through the grass are frothy, heritage industry affairs designed to be accompanied by strawberries and cream and not to be taken too seriously. Shakespeare’s Globe theatre company look set to change such perceptions when they open their outdoor tour of Romeo And Juliet in Glasgow next week as part of the West End festival.

For the two young actors taking the title roles of the doomed lovers, it will also be something of a homecoming. Richard Madden and Ellie Piercy both studied in Glasgow prior to turning professional. Indeed, Madden has yet to graduate from the acting course at RSAMD, and, as well as facing the pressures of playing such a meaty role in close proximity to the audience, will have the added anxiety of being assessed and graded by his tutors.

“This is the end of my third year,” says Madden following a Saturday mornin…

Suzy Glass – Message from the Skies

Freedom of movement matters to Suzy Glass, the arts and events producer currently overseeing the second edition of Message from the Skies.This animated literary derive around the city forms part of this year’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme, and runs right through till Burns’ Night. Glass’ concerns are inherent in the event itself, which has commissioned six writers from different disciplines and experiences to each pen a love letter to Europe. Each writer has then paired up with a composer and visual artist or film-maker, with the results of each collaboration projected in monumental fashion on the walls of one of half a dozen of the capital’s most iconic buildings.
With venues stretching from the south side of Edinburgh to Leith, and with one city centre stop requiring a walk up Calton Hill, there is considerable legwork required to complete the circuit. It shouldn’t be considered a race, however, and audiences are free to move between venues at their leisure, visiting each site on d…