Ahead of the Macbeth season, Shareena Clanton tells us how Shakespeare’s tragedy can enlighten us.
What is Macbeth about?
Individually and collectively Macbeth asks us to deal with the concepts of fear and our relationship to power. In terms of his actions and justifications, the power Macbeth accumulates to take hold of the crown is led by various temptations and fuelled by his own ambition. Such ambitions become a bait for the Witches/ forces of darkness to tap into his insatiable and intoxicating appetite for power and control.
Consequently, with an uncontrollable and rapid blood-lust he shifts as an ambassador for good to become an enemy of goodness itself, raging with the potency of his actions, his obsessive thirst for power and his own moral compass, a compass that shifts to become active in constructing and sealing his fate. Macbeth is driven by his objective to control and rule no matter the cost, leaving endless trails of blood and ultimately wreaking havoc in an effort to maintain his own victories.
I think the reason we gravitate towards plays like Macbeth is because they resonate with our own fears, darkness and desires and help bring to light questions of our own morality and mortality. We see Macbeth become an embodiment of dangerous desires having access to reach their full potential and the consequences that evolve as a result. We are asked to question our own humanity, our own chaos, our own confusions and the gravitational pull towards darkness. We are challenged and made accountable by what our definitions of goodness are and the decisions we choose to make via various decision-making processes and methodologies. Let us not forget about the spiritual realms and forces that exist which help to influence what he believe in, what we hope for and what we love.
How have design concepts influenced this production of Macbeth?
This is a modern-day interpretation of the play and therefore, it’s connected to the current landscape of our times. The realms and parameters of war are endless. In terms of our design concepts, it’s very dark, it’s very relevant and it’s very now. This play and multi layered elements from various design teams tap into this depth, darkness and a totalitarian society that’s very much about ‘I’m right, you’re wrong. I fight for good, you fight for evil,’ and offers a voice of truth to our times.
In terms of the witches, who are not only part of a cult but who exist in this world of war, their revolution and intentions are far more sinister and malevolent. The witches conjure and deceive their enemy by utilizing darker elements from the spirit world, the Earth and of war. Every action is about inflicting further pain into the world, to lure you with temptations and ideas and to plant seeds of uncertainty and doubt that feed on your desires and quest for power/ruling. They represent a bigger ideology and playing field that absolutely believes in chaos, relishes in fear and delights not only in the darkness but in the uprising of natural order. All design concepts are imperative in helping to inhabit these spaces, to represent the world in which we are living in and to reflect its ugliness.
What do you love about Shakespeare?
To immerse yourself into a four-hundred-year-old text, with references from four hundred years ago is a learning process for everyone. The key to any Shakespeare is to honour where it has come from, find out what the language means, what the poetry and imagery is and to let go of any preconceived ideas, notions or expectations as you allow yourself to play and discover the world and characters for yourself and with your ensemble.
Macbeth plays at Southbank Theatre from 5 June. Book now.