First published on 18 Apr 2012. Updated on 13 Jun 2012.
Bell Shakespeare's new production is being hyped as a "seductive" portrait of one of theatre's most "spectacularly erotic" couples. Time Out talks to Kate Mulvany to find out more.
"It's true," insists Kate Mulvany, who along with co-adapting the text plays the key role of Lady Macbeth. "Anna Cordingly, our designer, is determined to make it as sexy and erotic as possible. And so is Peter, actually."
That's Peter Evans, the director. He also directed the 2011 Bell Shakespeare production of Julius Caesar, and many of the team who were involved in that project are now working with him on the Scottish play.
In Julius Caesar, Mulvany starred as a female Cassius, the ruthless conspirator. It was a masterful performance in which Mulvany attempted to suppress all suggestion of sexual energy.
"I almost imagined her as having no sexual organs. In terms of relations, she was business, business, business. I loved that I was able to play a woman who was in power simply because she was a good politician."
Lady Mac, then, makes a fascinating sequel.
On the one hand, both she and Cassius are tantalised by power. As Mulvany puts it, you can already see the "seed" of Lady Macbeth in Cassius. "It's in the way Cassius pushes Brutus forward in the quest for power, the way Lady Macbeth goads Macbeth into usurpation."
But on the other hand, in Macbeth the sex is irrepressible. Sexual difference, as dramatised in the fierce bedroom contest between the doomed Thane of Cawdor and his wife, is at the core of the action.
"What makes the couple erotic," enthuses Mulvany, "is that they really enjoy their sex. They love their sex and genuinely love each other. Which is why it's so devastating by the end. Because you think, that's not a couple having sex, that's a couple gone mad."
It's something Mulvany says resonates vitally with us today. If the world has gone mad, with slaughter and corruption, then perhaps it's because we're not having enough sex.
"I think we've lost sex. I think we've lost the pleasure of sex. I think sex at the moment is either too clinical in the way it is presented, or it's pornographic. Sex is intimacy and a shared love."
But then why wasn't the sex enough? If they had it, how did they lose it? For Mulvany, that's one of the deep and enduring mysteries of the play.
"They get that little taste of power, that little taste of blood on their tongue. And then—I don't know. That's something I'll have to discover with Dan [Dan Speilman, in the role of Macbeth] in the rehearsal room. Poor Dan."
Poor Dan, indeed.
Macbeth, The Arts Centre Playhouse, 7-23 Jun