Triumphant Macbeth beats a bloody path to Broadway


Last updated at 08:09 29 February 2008

There will be blood on Broadway.

The acclaimed Chichester Festival Theatre production of Macbeth with Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood will move across the Brooklyn bridge, from where it's playing to packed houses at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) to the Lyceum Theatre in Manhattan from late March through to May 25.

The move will put Stewart, his leading lady Ms Fleetwood, director Rupert Goold and the production in the running for the Tony Awards.

"There's something about the blood," Stewart told me. "All of us in the play have developed a relationship with this blood, because it's everywhere. The other day, there were drops of blood on my boots that neither I nor my dresser had seen before," the actor said, with mock alarm in his voice.

The gore, though, more than earns its keep. Backstage, before the death of Duncan, Stewart goes through a silent ritual where a stage manager sponges his hands, arms and white shirt with dribbles of blood.

She then places two daggers in his hands. "I allow the horror of what she's doing to reach me. We don't laugh about it and it helps me get into the state that, moments ago, I was sticking these daggers into human flesh," he says.

Such moments infuse Stewart with an uncomfortable emotional and psychological sensibility that has allowed him to produce one of the defining Shakespearean performances of recent times.

The blood certainly plays its part, but there's a family dimension that also informs his devastating portrait of the Thane of Cawdor - his own father. Alfred Stewart left the Army as a regimental sergeant major.

"He was a superstar, militarily speaking, and as the years have gone by I've come to realise how my father exists in many of the roles that I play, particularly the authoritative figures.

"He had a moustache, and I have one now. Every night I put on my forage cap, pick up my AK47 and it's my father staring back at me out of the mirror,' Stewart told me. The company of actors playing BAM have become a tight-knit ensemble, looking out for each other, and for most of them it will be their first time on Broadway - although Stewart has played there before.

It's also good news for the Chichester Festival Theatre. The last time the Sussex theatre had a play in New York was Robert Bolt's Vivat Vivat Regina 38 years ago. It's also, probably, one of the last shows veteran West End producers Paul Elliott and Duncan Weldon will represent on Broadway. But those guys have said that before. They'll be back.

Oh, and here's something to get the theatrical juices flowing: Stewart confirmed that "there is a conversation going on" about him and Ian McKellen reuniting (they were in the X-Men movies, if you recall) in a stage production in about 18 months' time. Tantalisingly, he refused to elaborate.

By the way, Stewart, McKellen and Chiwetel Ejiofor have all been nominated for Olivier awards for performances in plays by the Bard, but only one of them will get it. There might be blood.

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