Ipswich Gallery Studio Theatre stages 'historic' Macbeth production
- Credit: Mike Kwasniak
Ipswich-based actor and director Brian Theodore Ralph loves Shakespeare and he also loves a challenge.
His latest project is to turn the newly opened Gallery Players Studio, in St Georges Street, Ipswich, into both an early medieval castle and a wild, exposed moor for his production of Macbeth which runs from October 25-30.
A founder member of the original Wolsey acting company when the theatre opened in 1979, he has performed in many Shakespeare productions over the years but he has never directed one of the Bard’s great tragedies - until now.
Brian has always loved Macbeth, it’s not only one of his favourite Shakespeare plays, it is one of his favourite plays ever.
“It’s one of Shakespeare’s most perfect plays. Narratively, it’s very simple and straightforward, so it’s easy to follow but it’s still got all these layers which make it very rewarding for both audiences and actors. It gives you lots to think about.”
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Brian also loves the atmosphere which the play generates which he says never fails to draw audiences into this dark and thrilling world which Shakespeare conjures up.
“We know that Shakespeare is endlessly adaptable, but I do love it when a play like Macbeth is actually set in the time in which the events actually occurred. Many people don’t realise that these kings – Duncan, Malcolm and Macbeth – were real.
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They actually existed – which is why I was determined to set the play in the 11th century because it all adds to the atmosphere and to the drama.
“And we are very fortunate that we have the Gallery Studio now because it is such an adaptable space and we can create a concrete world for us to inhabit.”
Brian has also sourced sponsorship from the Wolsey Theatre Club to allow him to hire authentic Scottish 11th century costumes from Angels, London’s leading professional costumers.
“It took an exhausting three days to select all the costumes, making sure they all went together and also hauling off the racks and putting them back. Some of them are very heavy and it can be quite difficult squeezing them back on the rails but it was worth it. The cast look amazing and it adds so much to the look and feel of the production.”
He said that the play is a fast-paced adventure in which the audience is left to make up their own minds about several key questions.
“I don’t think it’s my job to provide any answers rather present the play as written and allow audiences to make up their own minds – that’s the fun of it.
“Is Macbeth really a heartless, cruel, ambitious murdering tyrant? He can be viewed as that and yet at the start of the play he is clearly a loyal subject of King Duncan. Is it his wife, Lady Macbeth who is the ambitious one, who pushes him to murder his king? Perhaps, but as soon as Macbeth is king her influence swiftly disappears or maybe it is the Weird Sisters who Macbeth first meets of the heath – maybe they are responsible for more than putting temptation in Macbeth’s path?
“There are lots of intriguing questions to be answered but all the answers can be found in the play and everyone will find different solutions.”
The Gallery Players production of Macbeth, directed by Brian Theodore Ralph, is at the Gallery Players Studio Theatre, St Georges Street, Ipswich from October 25-30. Tickets can be booked at the online box office here