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Set play

MACBETH. Shakespeare's Globe.

Tim Carroll, master of play for Macbeth at the Globe, explains his role. "It's a quite different structure from a pyramid. Unlike some conceptions of a director, I'm neither guru nor father figure nor philosopher king."

For Carroll, the role implies a circle. The actors are at the centre, and he collaborates with them and the Master of Design, Master of Dance and others in a collective dramatic enterprise.

But he is insistent about one central responsibility that properly belongs to the Master of Play: the storytelling. Last summer, the Globe's Two Noble Kinsmen demonstrated vividly that Carroll is gifted with the ability to present a compelling dramatic tale with great lucidity. This season's Macbeth is certain to display that same gripping narrative quality.

Carroll is struck by how Macbeth seems, on the surface, to be unsuited to the Globe. "Here we have no blackout, no lighting effects or the power to create mystery through bubbling sounds, and the like. Dry ice would simply blow away in five seconds. But that is what is so exciting about the Globe. It has forced us to jettison all those gnarled and cliched responses that are evoked in a black-box theatre."

You can see the implications of that radical rethinking of theatrical convention in the brif for the costumes. There will be no tartan, no leather or fur, no combat jackets or camouflage trousers. And definitely no Doc Martens.

Carroll is certain that in Jacobean times the extraordinary sophistication of Shakespeare's language and dramatic construction was matched by equally creative staging. He hopes his own production will be similarly inventive. Once again, that means avoiding over-familiar representations.

On the witches, for example, Carroll says: "It's conventional to make them as dark and mysterious as possible, their faces smeared and disguised. That can be embarrassing for many people, and the Globe forces you to be unembarrassed."

The same robust immediacy will characterise the Porter. Don't expect ad-libbing or contemporary jokes. "That's half-baked," says Carroll, for whom the integrity of Shakespeare's text is vital.

His trust in how the power of the word can liberate imagination and dramatic action is shared by his Macbeth, the remarkable Jasper Britton.

Last year at the Globe, Britton's Caliban and Palamon demonstrated how actor and audience can truly bond in that unique space. But Carroll has an additional reason for casting Britton as Macbeth: "He's a great comedian."


From May 27 to September 22. Box office: 020 7401 9919

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