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Set play

Macbeth

Barrie Rutter played Macbeth in a school production in 1964 to celebrate Shakespeare's quatercentenary. In professional productions, he's been the Porter and various thanes. Now, as actor-manager of Northern Broadsides, he is directing the play for the first time, touring to some of Britain's most exciting theatrical spaces.

Rutter is straightforward about his reasons for taking Macbeth on tour. "I don't approach it with any particular concept in mind, and I'm sceptical of anyone who does. It's a cracking yarn. There's a driving narrative. Duncan is dead within 40 minutes. The play has a natural alacrity. It goes at a tremendous speed, and there are abrupt gear changes from one emotional moment to the next. That suits our percussive style."

Costumes will be overcoats and suits. The witches, young and female, will disappear into a huge sheepskin. There will be bloody daggers and two huge broadswords that will be difficult for the actors to lift. The set is simple and will change at each venue. Is Macbeth relevant today? "Every Shakespeare play is emotionally relevant. The emotions speak to everyone because it's the stuff of humanity.You don't need to shoot Macbeth with a machine gun to remind the audience it's relevant to Kosovo or wherever."

He is eloquent on the language of the play and how it becomes accessible in performance, especially to first-time audiences, when played, as always by Northern Broadsides, in local dialect. "We don't do it for people who've seen it 58 times, but for people who have never seen it - and for ourselves." That means delivering the words and emotions with immediacy and truth. "Simplicity, real and exciting, that's the key to our work."

Rutter won't be playing Macbeth. "He's first and last a soldier, and I've gone beyond that. It's a part for a younger actor." He'll take the rarely performed part of Hecate, queen of the witches. "It's a great part, a terrific speech."

Rex Gibson From March 14, Dean Clough, Halifax. Tickets: 01422 255266. For tour details: www.northern-broadsides.co.uk. Various sound recordings are available. Films include versions by Orson Welles (1948) and Roman Polanski (1971). Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood (1957) will add another perspective. Last season's production at Shakespeare's Globe was especially controversial: www.shakespeares-globe.orgglobelink

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