Something wicked this way comes

11th October 1996 at 01:00
John Doyle is a Celt, born in the Highlands and educated at a school built on the site of Macbeth's castle. His new production of Macbeth, at York Theatre Royal, aims to be refreshingly clear and uncluttered, dark and simple.

"People try to be better than the play itself, try to put a concept on it that denies the power of the story," says Doyle. "The best Macbeth that I've ever seen was Trevor Nunn's, with the actors just sitting in a circle on orange boxes. We don't abandon the way of the story, we trust the words. There will be no off-stage sound effects because the sounds are in the language. Hubble bubble toil and trouble. The turmoil of the battle is in the words."

Doyle wants his audiences to have a strong sense of the supernatural. They should have a sense of order, of church, of heaven and hell, and an awareness of a power beyond us. But the supernatural must not be confused with the black arts, even though James I's dabbling in witchcraft was one of the reasons why Shakespeare wrote Macbeth.

Doyle wants evil to be omnipresent, which is why all nine actors appear as a chorus of witches, and the evil must have its own attractive, seductive quality. The witches are not gnarled, hideous hags but Blake-like creatures with their own sweet serenity.

These actors go on to play other characters but a witch will always be visible on stage and eventually it will be difficult to tell just who are witches and who are not.

The actors will wear long plaid togas, worn in different ways as they change from witches to characters. They will work on a bleak set with nine chairs arranged in a semi circle.

"Macbeth is about a descent into hell," says Doyle. He sees Macbeth and his wife as having made a choice, influenced by the power of evil, so they move from order into chaos. What they do we could all do, Doyle believes. We all have ambition, and we all have a natural potential to kill.

The key to the production's success, Doyle feels, will be its stillness, which will create tension. It will intimidate and it will be eerie. Movement will be minimal, the characters always wary of danger.

Duncan is to be played by a woman because the actress, Tina Gray, has the human qualities that John Doyle was looking for. "There is a great gentleness and a maternal quality about Duncan. He's somebody you wouldn't want to see killed, and that's important because, if nothing else, Macbeth is a good thriller, though not in the Agatha Christie sense!"

York Theatre Royal October 18 - November 16. Tel: 01904 623568

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