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Drama group brings the madness of Macbeth to the stage

By Somerset Guardian  |  Posted: November 08, 2012

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Frome Drama Club returns to the stage, from November 22 to November 24, when it presents Macbeth at Frome's Merlin Theatre. Leads Andrew Morrison and Ellen Kirkman take time out to talk to Your Time about what audiences can expect ...

Frome Drama Club's production of Shakespeare's sinister tragedy Macbeth sees Andrew Morrison and Ellen Kirkman taken on the lead roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

Andrew returned to the stage three years ago after a hiatus of 10 years and has since been involved in two productions each year. Of those, his most prestigious roles have been as Mark Antony in Bath Drama's 2011 production of Antony and Cleopatra and as Benedick in Bradfordians Dramatic Society's summer production of Much Ado About Nothing.

Ellen has performed a lot of times at the Merlin Theatre, ever since she was at school at Frome College. She took a break from acting when she moved to London to work at the BBC, but on returning to Frome she got back on the stage as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.

Can you tell us about Macbeth and the character you play?

Andrew:Macbeth is the shortest and one of the most famous of William Shakespeare's tragedies.

It is set in Medieval Scotland and looks at the themes of the supernatural, legacy and treason. I play Macbeth who begins the play as a successful warrior but becomes increasingly treacherous, violent and unstable as the play progresses and leaves a body count in his wake of which Quentin Tarantino would be proud.

Ellen: There are many different interpretations of Macbeth's true character and why he turns out as he does.

One such interpretation suggests Lady Macbeth as the sole driving force behind her husband's actions and that it is she that is ambitious and manipulative, forcing Macbeth's hand by using all her feminine persuasive wiles.

Another is that the witches are responsible for Macbeth's descent into tyranny by waking the latent blood-thirsty ambition in him by supernatural forces.

Andrew: Macbeth returns from war to be manipulated by supernatural spirits and Lady Macbeth into committing more and more bloody and heinous crimes to reach and maintain the position of King of Scotland. Despite the fact that he is familiar with death, his conscience leads him to madness and his allies slowly turn against him.

Ellen: Lady Macbeth first appears in the play reading a letter that her husband has sent her telling her of his encounter with the witches. She is determined that he will be King but is worried about his too kind nature. She has to persuade him to go ahead with the murder. She also has to cover up for him when he starts hallucinating at a feast in front of all their guests. This is where she begins to suspect that all is not as it seems.

How have rehearsals been going?

Andrew: We are very lucky to have a very talented cast. A lot of us are new to each other and the group, which means we are all starting from a similar position.

Ellen: We're lucky to have a fantastic cast and that everyone is so good it makes you up your game to prove yourselves worthy to be among such talent

You are new to Frome Drama Club – what made you want to join?

Andrew: Frome Drama Club have an excellent reputation and I have nearly auditioned for them in the past. Playing Macbeth would be on my "bucket-list" if I had such a thing and the opportunity to audition was one I could not overlook. Another draw was the opportunity to perform at a theatre with such a good reputation as the Merlin.

I'm having a great time with the group, and hopefully they will give me the opportunity to work with them again.

Ellen: I have seen many of FDC's productions over the years and they've always been of an extraordinarily high quality. When I heard that they were going to do Macbeth, I finally took the plunge to get involved, as I've wanted to play Lady Macbeth since I studied it at GCSE

Are you nervous?

Andrew: I think "nervous" has a kind of negative ring to it, so I wouldn't really describe it as nerves but I certainly get a massive natural rush from doing it.

Ellen: No. I am, though, incredibly nervous in that moment just before first walking on to stage when I just go completely blank. But after I've said the first few lines, then it just all settles down and I'm away.

What can people expect when they take their seats for Macbeth

Andrew: I don't want to give too much away, but this is not an entirely traditional presentation of Macbeth. The director has definitely taken some risks in his interpretation of the play in order to produce a fresh vision. In particular, the role of the witches in moving the plot of the play forward has been given added prominence.

Ellen: A lot of action, weirdness and blood – well it is Macbeth! It's an emotional roller-coaster. There are some macabre and scary moments but some quite tender ones too.

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