Since getting a sneak peak of the Macbeth rehearsals at London’s Sugar Studios, I have eagerly been awaiting the touring production’s arrival in Oxford. This month the wait is over!

From January 8 to January 12 the National Theatre will be returning to New Theatre Oxford with their latest production of Macbeth.

Aside from theatre-goers, like myself, looking forward to seeing the show this particular tour will be seen by hundreds of school pupils across the UK and Ireland who are studying Macbeth as part of their English curriculum.

Ahead of the show I caught up with Liz Stevenson who is co-directing Macbeth alongside the National Theatre’s renowned Artistic Director, Rufus Norris. After watching the cast of 19 perform the end of act 1 I was eager to know how this rendition of Macbeth will resonate with today’s audiences.

“There isn’t one way of doing Shakespeare,” Liz tells me.

“The design is very bleak, it’s very dark, and a brutal world. We’ve talked a lot about nature and a lot about mankind’s disrespect for nature and how that manifests in the landscape, which is very plastic and broken down – it’s not a very green, lush, alive world. I think that’s a comment on what mankind is doing to the planet.

“If law and order was to disintegrate, if the internet was to crash, if the banks were to crash, if the world descended into chaos, we would end up in a place something like this potentially. I think that’s why it’s another good one for students to see, because it’s not ‘we’re gonna do Macbeth and relate it to Victorian history’ – it’s set in the future, it’s whatever we imagine it to be, and I think that means they’re going in on the same page as everyone in the audience. It’s imaging what the world could be like, and I think young people are really interested in that.

“Things like superstition come from a time of struggle and uncertainty – you might not be a religious person but if you’re in a moment of danger you might say a prayer or cross your fingers. It all comes from a similar place.

“For students that are studying Macbeth, at whatever age, it’s such a brilliant production to come and see because what’s really important in rehearsal is that all the time the story is clear – that these characters feel really human and you can empathise with them. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth aren’t two evil people sat in their ivory towers – these are two people who are desperate, they’ve gone through so much struggle and strife during the war, and they’ve lost their children. They’re given a glimmer of hope, and that hope – that they get to be King and Queen – means they’re safe and secure. We wanted to find a way to bring out humanity in them so that people would watch them and go ‘that could be me’. I think because that was so important to Rufus that makes it a really accessible, human, production.

“There’s a real diversity amongst the cast, and that’s how it should be – reflecting the world we see around us today.”

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