Interview: theatre director Rachel O'Riordan discusses her new production of Macbeth
'The themes of the play are quite strongly reflected in the Scottish Independence debate'
‘It’s interesting to be doing Macbeth at a time when people are thinking about the nature of Scottish Independence and the nature of Scottishness itself, because the themes of the play are quite strongly reflected in that,’ says Rachel O‘Riordan, director of this new version of The Scottish Play. ‘I’m interested in the fact that Shakespeare wrote the English characters as positive forces, and not just because he was writing the play for the court of James I of England [James VI of Scotland]. He presents the relationship as a question and not an answer: are we stronger together or apart?’
Although Scotland has seen many adaptations of Macbeth over the past few years (including the one-man version by Alan Cumming and at least a couple from Poland), this co-production between the Tron and Perth Theatre has the virtue of a large cast, and O'Riordan's attention to Shakespeare's words.
It’s by returning to the text that O’Riordan, a CATS winner for her previous directed play at Perth Theatre, The Seafarer, has teased out the contemporary parallels. ‘What I also think might be unusual for some people is my interpretation of Lady Macbeth, who was frequently seen as a very tough, masculine woman,’ she says. ‘Yet a lot of her bad decisions are made from a childlike lack of knowledge, which would have been common with women in medieval times: women were chattels rather than autonomous beings in their own right.'
For O'Riordan, this opens up a more powerful connection to the audience. 'It means a lot of us can relate to her when one bad decision breeds catastrophic consequences. Obviously planning to kill the king isn’t a decent thing to do, but people always forget that she doesn’t actually kill anybody.’
Perth Theatre, Fri 20 Sep–Sat 5 Oct; Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 8–Sat 19 Oct.