Ahead of the Macbeth season, Kevin Hofbauer tells us why he became an actor rather than a soldier.
What is Macbeth about?
The power struggle between faith, loyalty, honour, where your allegiances lie and taking things into your own hands to hasten what you want. You can mould fate into what you perceive it to be. I think Banquo is very loyal, he’s loyal to the King – whoever that may be. When he first hears about the premonitions, he’s sort of like a person who has dabbled in reading the horoscopes but doesn’t take them too seriously. Whereas Macbeth has got more to gain from it, so he takes it more seriously.
How do you perceive and embody your character?
The main characteristic for Banquo is loyalty, and I can reach from that. In my family and culture, loyalty and family play an extremely important role. For Banquo, his family having the lineage of royal blood, it seems quite fitting. The embodiment of it has just been about being that listening best friend of Macbeth – that’s one of the main tasks. It’s sort of like when you see a good friend of yours go down a path that they probably shouldn’t, but you don’t know where to draw the line; when it’s appropriate for you to speak up and say something, and when you think that they’ll be able to get out of it themselves without you interjecting. Unfortunately, it’s the latter in Macbeth – Banquo doesn’t get the chance to step in, and Macbeth drew up Banquo’s fate. Being a ghost is fine, because all my focus is going on Macbeth. It’s like ‘you killed me, you’ve got to live with this image, and I’m going to let you stare into my eyes and I’m going to hit you right back with it. I’m going to give you all the guilt and destroy you mentally, because you’ve taken my life on this silly thing we saw one night – these three witches, and now you’ve gone crazy.’
How does this production resonate with our world today?
One of the lines later on in the play is ‘Some say he’s mad, others that lesser hate him do call it valiant fury’. So it is this thing where some people are saying this, and others are on his side. I think that’s what’s happening today, even with the Trump administration, and in North Korea – he’s taking out people from his family – if you’re not on his side, you’re of no use. Banquo was more family than friend with Macbeth. They don’t just go to war together, they win wars together. They have such a close bond, that for him to be so drunk on power as to get rid of him, I’d describe that as dictator-level crazy.
What was your first experience of Shakespeare?
In Year 11 English we studied Macbeth. I wanted to be in the army, because I come from a military family, and it was through learning the language of Shakespeare that I joined drama and found a passion for it, so it’s actually quite wonderful to have studied it at school, to have learnt about it there, and to get to this level of professional theatre. The moment that I got this role I sent my drama teacher an email, because I wasn’t a good student, and she kept me in class!
Macbeth plays at Southbank Theatre from 5 June. Book now.