Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Killing Eve inspires new take on Scottish play

Killing Eve inspires new take on Scottish play

IT was the most talked about television show of the year. Now Killing Eve’s influence is making itself felt in the world of Shakespearean drama.

Last night (Thursday) at 7pm saw the first of 18 performances of a new production of Macbeth at Reading’s Minster Church of St Mary the Virgin.

The show, which is running at the town centre venue until Saturday, November 9, is the work of the multi-award-winning Reading Between the Lines theatre company.

“This is the Bard’s classical masterpiece in a whole new light, says director Hal Chambers. “Women come to the fore in this new production, reclaiming the typically male-led play for themselves.”

Inspired by Killing Eve, the lead character finds herself thrust into a high-stakes underworld of politics and betrayal in which she and her husband carry their recent grief of a lost child and remodel it into dangerous ambition.

Macbeth is played by Jessica Baglow, who earlier this year appeared in the BBC-HBO
co-production Gentleman Jack.

In a career stretching back more than 20 years, the 30-year-old’s previous TV work has included parts in Holby City, Waterloo Road, Doctors and Emmerdale.

“I was born in Yorkshire and my mother was involved in the local Stagecoach acting school,” says Jessica. “I was spotted there and got a part in Where the Heart Is when I was seven and spent six years on the show.”

As you might expect, the actress’s love of theatre started early too.

“My first memories of seeing something was Les Misérables at the Bolton Octagon. I also saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream there — I don’t think I have ever laughed so much.”

Following on from her early TV success, Jessica studied drama at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art before acting in plays at Shakespeare’s Globe and back at the Bolton Octagon.

Her performing CV includes many Shakespeare plays as well as modern productions such as Noises Off and Educating Rita.

For Jessica, it doesn’t seem to matter whether a given play is centuries old or brand new.

“You need to create your own take on the character and for that you build your character up from the script,” she says.

“What I really like about this role is that it is a person in charge of their own destiny. Hence, they rise or fall on their own skill and decision-making.”

On that note, who has most inspired Jessica in her career to date — and who would she most like to act with in future?

“My nan and everyone I work with,” she says. “In this profession you can always pick up acting tips overtly or otherwise and decide to take them on board to improve your skills.

“As for who I would love to act with, Meryl Streep. It would be brilliant, she is so clever
and I could learn so much — but on the
flip side, totally scary.”

Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, Macbeth is first thought to have been performed in 1606. But what can audiences expect from this production? “A different way of looking at Macbeth, but staying true to the original play in the plot and story,” says Jessica. “We have females playing Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, McDuff and Duncan, as well as Duncan’s son and daughter.”

As most students of O-level and GCSE English will be aware, the play follows a brave Scottish general named Macbeth who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland.

Consumed by ambition, Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the Scottish throne for himself. He is then wracked with guilt and paranoia. Forced to commit more and more murders to protect himself from enmity and suspicion, he soon becomes a tyrannical ruler.

The bloodbath and consequent civil war swiftly take Macbeth and Lady Macbeth into the realms of madness and death. True to the revisionist spirit of the current production, Macbeth’s three witches have here been reduced in number to one, played by Lizzie Crarer.

“With our witch there is that question of is she real or a figment of Macbeth’s imagination,” says Jessica. “She is on stage quite a lot of the time and flits between the prostrate bodies after the battles.”

Joining Jessica and Lizzie in the cast are Oliver Bennett as Lord Macbeth, Maanuv Thiara as Banquo, Jordan Whyte as Duncan and Charlotte Wyatt as Macduff.

Staged in the round and designed by Emily Leonard, the winner of the 2018 John Elvery Prize for theatre design, this promises to be a show worthy of any stage.

“Expect haunting imagery, thrilling fight sequences and chilling original music,” says Dani Davies of Reading Between the Lines. “Possessed by the tone of many a modern horror movie, this Macbeth will be one you won’t want to miss.”

On Wednesday (October 30), the performance will be followed by a free post-show discussion and on Saturday, November 2, the 2pm matinée will be a relaxed performance.

Tickets are £25 with concesssions £22 and schools £13. For more information and to book, visit www.readingbetweenthelines.co.uk

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