Mark Fisher talks to Derek Jacobi about his starring role in the RSC’s
In I979 Derek Jacobi starred in an Old Vic production of Hamlet that played in Kronenbourg Castle, Elsinore. Denmark. You can‘t get more site— speciﬁc than that. By contrast. playing the lead in Macbeth in Edinburgh and Glasgow — as opposed to Dunsinane itself — seems rather less like taking coals to Newcastle than otherwise it might. Still. for many Scottish theatregoers the memory of last year‘s marvellous Tron/Dundee Rep production of the play remains sharp and it will be interesting to see how
this new RSC version compares.
Word from the company’s run in Stratford and London before the current national tour is certainly positive. ‘Dark and gripping.’ said The Times. ‘Devastating.’ said The Daily Express. and the Daily Mail praised Adrian Noble for the conﬁdence and clarity of his direction. So much for the choice quotes from the press pack — what did Jacobi himself think
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when his performance was described by Today as
‘ferocious’? ‘I've seen that one because they‘ve put it ' on the poster,‘ he chuckles. ‘Ferocious wasn‘t on my mind, i’m happy to say. But ifthey think it‘s ferocious. they think it‘s ferocious. I suppose it is a word that could be used in the context not particularly of my Macbeth, but of the part in
What Jacobi has been more concerned to do in this.
his ﬁrst attempt at the part. is to root his
interpretation solidly in the text. ‘What I found to be most interesting was the man‘s journey -— where you
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start and where you ﬁnish with Macbeth; to make
5 him not a psychopathic villain from the moment he
comes on. but a man who, like all of us at times. has evil tendencies and evil thoughts; a man of ambition.
' but a man who starts the play as a golden boy.
everybody‘s best friend. a man who the present king
is honouring above all others. a man who's got it all.
Compare that to what he is in the last scene when he sees that he is a fallen angel.‘
The recently knighted Jacobi is a healthy couple of decades older that Iain Glen who played Macbeth in
the Tron/Dundee Repproduction (and has himself gone on to join the RSC this season). but he doesn't feel it is a role in which age matters so much. ‘Hamlet. yes; Romeo. yes; and Lear. yes. But with creatures like Othello and Macbeth. age doesn‘t seem quite so important.‘
This characteristic of the part allows for a wide variety of interpretations, some more successful with audiences than others. And it is inevitable with a play that has been performed so many times by so many great actors that people should make comparisons to previous productions. Jacobi's solution is to ignore the hype and get on with the job, resigned to the idea
‘l’m very conscious that in the public eye I’m probably not a dead-ringer tor Macbeth. That’s good to play against.’
that all the classical parts are dependent on the personality and appearance of the actor. ‘I haven't got a bass voice, I've got a tenor or baritone. If you hear Macbeth as a bass part. I‘m not your Macbeth. I've got to use what I've got and put it all at the service ofthe text. I’m very conscious that in the public eye I‘m probably not a dead—ringer for Macbeth. That ’s good to play against and acquire another colour on the paiette.‘
Edinburgh, an intimate theatre compared to some on the tour. Jacobi is discovering, as the number of performances goes into three ﬁgures, how well the play works on a smaller scale. ‘The more you play it, the more you long to play it in a small space. because of its domesticity. It is a wonderfully interior. domestic play — interior in the sense that its taking place a great deal in his head and it's certainly taking place inside the castle. their home. Tonight‘s the
1 14th performance - I count — by the time we get to Edinburgh we’ll be in the I40s. I ﬁrmly believe that you don‘t begin to feel easy in your skin and your bones in a part until at least performance 45.‘
! Macbeth. King ’s Theatre. Edinburgh. Mon 6— .; Sat ll Jun.
I Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Man l3-Sat 18 Jun.
Sontatirnes, it’s the old-fashioned therues that pack there In like nothing else. The one-luau show Sacred Journey, successfully touring this country after enthusiastic reactions across the US, is another chapter In the has“ quest to find hintseit’ genre, which scans to lraep drawing breath and breadth tron: its universal W
‘There are a lot at people who’ve told me P. telling their lite story - people who live In this country,’ says actor Adan Sacha.
In fact, he’s telling the lite story at Join, - Iroquois Indian clinging Ieebly to his traditional roots, while
living on the streets of the Big (bad) Apple. Given the subject matter, we can add the old nugget ‘cultural imperialisrn’ to the thematic possibilities, as John scrabbles his way back to a spiritual reconciliation.
In the year since Sacred Journey started touring, its potentially most explosive ports at call were the native Arnerican reservations In Minnesota. ‘A lot of people were quite angry, saying “we don’t need tor people to see the bad side of native Americans”; says Sanchez, who Is an Apache. ‘But unfortunately they didn’t stay to see all of the show which would have shown there It's about a nan who wires It.’
Sacred Journey is a step towards eradicating the one-dimensional
image at the Indian who exists to be shot by John Wayne or to stand, enobled and silhouetted against a tiery sunset.
“it's getting better,’ says Adan. ‘I-‘Iins llre the new Geronimo [In which Adan piaysthlrd warriorontheieitinoneoi the battle scener] and Dances With Wolves are certainly luring lore genuine, authentic atteupts at portrayals. There's were and wore Ilins caning out with conteuporary native hericans which is helping, andthat'swhatlllreaboutthisstery - It’s creating an awarenus of native Americans new and how each they're Ilre everyone else.’ (Fiona Shepherd)
Looking forward in particular to playing the King's.
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