A New Kind of Macbeth – Korda’s Reimagining of Shakespeare’s Classic Opens Tonight

MacbethThis story first appeared in the October issue of 519 Magazine, available at more than 300 locations in Southwestern Ontario.

Shakespeare gets a post-apocalyptic makeover in Korda Artist Productions gender-free re-imagining of Macbeth, coming to the Kordazone Theatre starting Oct. 18. Directors Sean Westlake and Martin Ouellette look to ramp up the base on this traditionally dark play with a post-apocalyptic vibe, built from the ground up.

This production reunites Westlake and Ouellette who were involved in last year’s smash hit Evil Dead The Musical. They plan to bring a new grit and drive to this brutal tale. It’s being set in a futuristic Scotland with the actors bringing the action out into the audience. This “Mad Max” mashup will combine extensive and imaginative combat sequences with real swords, haunting effects, and a dark, adrenaline filled soundscape throughout.

As with the original, fueled by ambition and prophecy, Macbeth and his wife soon succumb to visions of power as they embark on a murderous plot to secure the crown. Soon the pair become entangled in the gruesome horrors of their own making. We spoke with director’s Sean Westlake, Martin Ouellette, as well as actors Fay Lynn and Emma Amlin.

Macbeth has been done a million times over, so what are you going to do to that makes this totally different?

Martin – One, of the major choices that we made right away was that it had to be set in a future post-societal collapsed Scotland, basically far enough in the future that if there is any mention of the current times it would only be in legend. It’s a George Miller, very Mad Max type of vision where it made sense to me visually. Some of our weapons are just modern materials that have been fused together to make a weapon, so it makes sense from a budgetary standpoint, but I was also really interested in casting the show gender blind and seeing how the story would work out with a female Macbeth. These are women in traditionally male roles, but we just went for the best actor who walked into the room for every role and then we worked around that.

Are there any considerations for a female Macbeth?

Martin – One of the conceits of the piece is the references to gender – he’s, his, Kings, Queens. In our world, gender pronouns are derived from what you do in society rather than what your reproductive systems says gender is. Once we made that choice, it made for some really interesting twists to the storytelling. For example, it gives a whole new story behind the childlessness of the Macbeths. These people want power, but they have no path to power in a society where power is derived only from the bloodline. If they can’t have children, what is their avenue to power? It’s obviously violence.

This isn’t like the recent Henry version where its cast was all women?

Martin – No. It’s not like women or men in traditional male roles. If you are the person that goes out and fights and does things out in the world that are a traditional masculine thing to do, then that makes you a “he” – it doesn’t matter what the genitals look like. It is the same as with if you were taking care of the home front with those traditional feminine activities – that would make you a “she”. They’re going to see a completely different production of Macbeth that they have never seen. It’s a choice we made. We weren’t sure; it was a bit of a gamble, but once we started seeing the scenes and seeing the way that it was working, we are really happy with it.

So basically, it sounds like you went in with a loose concept of it and it developed as you went along.

Sean – It strengthened as it went.

Martin – Yeah we had the visual sense of the show very early. We went into casting kinda’ blind. We went from talking about the show to casting it in a couple of weeks.

Did you guys know about the post-apocalyptic vision when you auditioned?

Fay – I did actually, I had seen it as a post-apocalyptic society / collapse kind of thing, which is very exciting because that is how I have always wanted to do this show. I wanted to be in this show at any capacity since I read it in high school. I considered directing it years ago with the same kind of twists, the same kind of take on it, except the vision was taken much further by Sean and Martin, so it actually worked out better. When I saw that they were going to be casting it as gender-blind, I thought it was amazing. I was just super excited about that. I had always imagined I’d play Macbeth, but I grew up in the time when you were either Lady Macbeth, Lady Macduff or one of the witches – that’s your choice and that’s what you get. Now all of a sudden Macduff, Macbeth, Malcolm and all these amazing roles – everything is open.

Martin – We’ve seen Fay perform in a number of shows, and I’ve worked with Fay on a couple of shows. Fay is an autodidact and has an incredible memory. Macbeth is a huge role and it’s 63% of the total dialogue, so she’s more than capable of handling it.

Sean – It was either the second or third rehearsal and I had to ask her where her script was.

Martin – We really needed that, and we really lucked out, because we also found Emma, which is her first show with Korda, but her memory is just as strong.

Fay – It’s great that my memory is a trade-off because I get to learn sword fighting. When I found out that Sean was choreographing it I was really excited.

Sean – The other thing I wanted to say too is that I’ve always been looking for that perfect production that really brings out my skills and fight choreography. For this show we brought in a steel sword for the fight sequences in the production.

Last year there was a lot of blood in Evil Dead. Is there’s going to be blood this time around?

Martin – Hopefully fake blood, yes. One thing about going post-apocalyptic/social collapse is that we will be able to integrate modern technology without it seaming anachronistic, so we’re going to be using some projection. We’ll be using a lot of light tricks and there are a couple of things that I want to do that are from the movie Prestige – some of the magic tricks we’re going to be trying to pull off.

This reimagining of Macbeth will be staged at the Kordazone Theatre in Windsor on Oct. 18to 21, Oct. 25 to 27 and Nov. 1 to 3. For tickets and more information, visit kordazone.com.

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Photography by: John Liviero, Sooters