SheShakespeare's Macbeth at PACT
Rosie spoke with Beth McMullen, the actress playing Macbeth in SheShakespeare's all-female production of Shakespeare's Scottish Play.
Beth McMullen: Macbeth
For those who haven't heard of the company, what is SheShakespeare and what does the company strive to do?
SheShakespeare was created to make space for women to tell stories from their perspective and expand on notions of what it means to be “female” in the arts. In terms of the creative process, being given the opportunity to explore roles that haven’t been available purely because of gender is really exciting. It also helps women to be brave, vulnerable and make bold choices without having to come up against the barrier of certain gender politics that can keep women confined in the rehearsal room. (It’s also great to know that there will be at least one person who can spot you with period pain relief). For audiences, experiencing a piece of theatre that is entirely female will hopefully inspire questions around the way we consume and perceive our stories when traditional notions of “gender” are flipped on their head.
Why Macbeth? What about this particular Shakespeare play would benefit from an all-female cast?
With Macbeth, the company gets to shift gears from comedy to tragedy and delve deep into the darker side of Shakespeare. Considering one of the central themes is gender, throwing an all-female treatment into the mix takes has posed some interesting questions. Are notions of the masculine versus feminine when it comes to power and ambition actually relevant? What colour should a fierce and tyrannical warrior paint her nails? (Jks) How do we feel when we see women engage in such violent acts that have traditionally been reserved for men? It also brings motherhood into the mix in a way that doesn’t hold the same weight when men are the ones making the big decisions.
Why do you think artists keep performing Shakespeare plays despite being centuries old? What is it about them that keeps us coming back?
Shakespeare’s works capture the extremes of existence in ways that not many have been able to achieve since. I think that both artists and audiences keep coming back to Shakespeare’s as a reliable source of what it is to be human. Also, for the actors, his poetry is particularly delicious to wrap your mouth and mind around.
What relevance does Macbeth have to a 2018 audience?
Our government in Australia is literally melting right now as politicians fight for the top spot. They may not be killing each other, but they are shedding figurative blood in pursuit of their own ambitious ideals over what’s best for the country. That type of blind ambition is perfectly captured in the story of Macbeth where people will do desperate things to try and control the course of fate to win the game and benefit only themselves.
What can audiences expect from this particular production of Macbeth?
There is a lot of heart and fierceness, some beautiful music to enhance the storytelling and even some surprising touches of sneaky comedy.
One of the themes in Macbeth is masculinity, and what it means to be a man. How do you think this content is shifted when played by a woman?
My favourite part of our script is when it makes specific reference to being a woman, knowing that it was originally about being male. For me, I don’t see masculinity as being the exclusive realm of men, nor do I see femininity as being the special designation of women. I think these terms can serve a purpose in categorising human behaviour, but it stops at gender, creating an interesting dialectic whereby notions of masculinity and femininity are both incredibly useful and incredibly redundant at the same time. Interestingly, there is no better play to explore this dialectic, as Macbeth is a play full of opposites and extremes standing side by side.
What other Shakespeare plays would you like to see performed with an all-female cast?
Romeo and Juliet would be wonderful, as would Hamlet.
Favourite production you have ever seen?
I don’t usually go for musicals, but seeing Fun Home in New York in 2016 had me ugly-crying in all the best possible ways.
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
I’m actually really into travelling in Australia at the moment - we have so much natural beauty here, I’m keen to see as much of it as possible before our politicians fuck it all up.
Dream role in any show to perform?
Macbeth. Oh, lucky me!
Plays or musicals?
Who is your industry inspiration?
I am obsessed with anything Matilda Ridgeway does, I’m such a creep.
What’s next for you after this show?
Some sleep, a solo show for Fringe Comedy and a few short films to round out the year. Then maybe I’ll have a bloody holiday.
SheShakespeare's Macbeth opens August 29th at PACT Centre for Emerging Artists and runs until the 8th of September. You can get your tickets here: https://www.sheshakespeare.com/