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Q&A: Mark Bruce

posted on 10 January 2018

Mark Bruce, Artistic Director of Mark Bruce Company, answers a few questions ahead of the world premiere of >Macbeth (31 Jan – 1 Feb) at Theatre Royal Winchester.

What are your thoughts on Shakespeare’s Macbeth?
Macbeth hits you fast, cuts through to the bone, and for me it is the least ambiguous of Shakespeare’s plays. Its darkness opens our nightmares; we recognise fundamental traits inside ourselves and the consequences of acting upon them. The vicious pursuit of power to fill a void will always be relevant – the Macbeths are everywhere in every age, because they are a part of us.

When did you discover Macbeth and what did you think?
I first read Macbeth as a teenager and returning to it now the images, atmosphere it evokes have not changed. Its power lies in a relentless tale of supernatural horror told with a beauty and symbolism that reaches to the tragic state of the ‘other. The supernatural is always present in Macbeth, bending our own thoughts and perceptions as well as those of the protagonists. It infects us, always one step ahead, and Macbeth’s decisions are made in the world of a nightmare as if there is no separation between thought and action. Murder is done and descent is rapid.

Why choose Macbeth?
It is something I have always wanted to do. I had a vision of Macbeth’s world and some of the cast in mind. It was the same with Dracula and The Odyssey. The choreographic language of Macbeth is very specific and detailed and I felt I had the right dancers at the right time in their careers to pursue this vocabulary. I do feel there is a time when you are ready to do a production and you can’t really contrive that.

Your production of Macbeth puts Lady Macbeth centre-stage with Macbeth himself – tell us more:
The Macbeths are mere playthings of the evil they set free, and in the madness and emptiness that ensues they become but walking shadows, or, as in my adaptation, simply clowns of sound and fury.

Are you influenced by other artists?
Influences always begin subconsciously and often it is only in retrospect that I identify them, and I also don’t expect to completely understand why an influence has imposed itself. I do think I’ve been affected by the films of David Cronenberg for this production: pace, economic shot selection; his film ‘Eastern Promises’ especially. The brooding atmosphere, the colour, the darkness seem to marry with the world and characters I saw Macbeth taking place in. Compared to a production like The Odyssey in which there was a myriad of influences, Macbeth is far more lean. It is written for the stage. My approach has been quite simple so I can really explore the text, get deeply into the characters and the world in which it is set.

How do you choose your dancers for Mark Bruce Company productions?
Sometimes I will have particular dancers in mind for a production and this will have a bearing on whether I pursue it or not – whether it is an established narrative or something I have written myself. With Macbeth I had a combination of dancers I already knew and some new ones. I held an audition for which we had over six hundred and fifty applicants. From this I took three dancers. They needed to be strong dramatically and in contemporary and classical technique.

Your music choice for Macbeth is classical and doesn’t involve any of your own composition unlike many of your other productions.
The music of Arvo Pärt was a fundamental decision in realising a through line for Macbeth. I was instantly drawn to how it captures something deep inside us. It can be sparse, refined and for me Macbeth is a refined play. Like Arvo Pärt’s music, there is so much going on with every line, every suggestion and this enables our imagination to transcend to the state of what is inside the protagonists, what they are missing, the state of their souls. I felt the combination of the subject matter and this music created something beautiful and tragic. And these two elements were the basis of my interpretation of Macbeth.

Winchester Images Sound II Man on a Horse Buttercross Hat Fair Alfred the Great Hat Fair

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