One of the cornerstones of the ISC's approach to Shakespeare is the way we try to immerse our audiences in the world of the play. We stage our productions so that the action surrounds and envelops the viewers, and characters can be seen behaving "in character" even when they're "offstage."
For this summer's production of Macbeth, we plan to take this approach even further. When the audience enters the performance site, we want them to feel like they're stepping back in time, into another world...a world of kings and queens, warlords and witches, soldiers and servants.
To do this, we'll be creating several distinct environments within the performance site, each active and populated throughout the performance. Audience members will be able to walk through these areas before the show and see the characters going about their business. We want to create the feeling that this is a world where these characters live all the time, and the scenes of the play are just brief episodes in their lives that we happen to be focusing on for a short time. A sort of "living-history-meets-Shakespeare" approach.
One of these environments will be the witches' grove. You can see more about our approach to the witches on the Witches page.
Raising Our Sights: Castles and Stages
Another key setting in the play is Macbeth's castle and its environs. There are few images more evocative and intriguing than a ruined Scottish castle:
So we wanted to incorporate this idea of a crumbling castle into our set design for the show, with the castle being one of the "live" environments, like the witches' camp...a world in which servants bustle and clean, people come and go, and life goes on even when it's not the focus of what's happening onstage. We're also aware of the need to make our actors more visible to everyone watching the show — especially those in the back. So for the first time, we'll be putting up a raised stage for this production. Finally, we wanted the set design to reflect some of the key patterns of imagery in the play, among which blood and serpents are very important.
A preliminary concept sketch for the Macbeth set...
Costuming the Show
Costuming will also play a crucial role in our effort to fully immerse the audience in the world of the play. Our costumes will be designed to evoke the world of early Medieval Scotland in which these characters lived.
These and many other bits of historical research provide the raw material for costume ideas, which must then be filtered through the artistic sensibility of the designer and director — and, of course, adjusted to the pragmatic needs of actors in an outdoor theatre setting.
* actors shown with an asterisk after their name appear courtesy of the Actor's Equity Association.
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