Q&A Scene: Jennifer Innes, Director of The Tragedy of Macbeth

Tell us about the play The Tragedy of Macbeth ?
Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, and for good reason. It tells the story of Macbeth, a high-ranking noble in 11th century Scotland, murdering her* Queen so that she herself may become Queen. It isn’t as straightforward as a good old-fashioned usurping though…there are 3 witches who prophesise to Macbeth that she will become Queen, right at the start of the play which raises the question – did the witches set the process in motion by planting the seed in her head? Once it is in there, we see Macbeth, along with her dutiful but ambitious husband, Lord Macbeth, become consumed by the desire to attain the “Golden Round” (the Crown). We then see the murder begin to eat away at the Macbeths’ sanity, as they each grapple with the reality of their actions, which fall far outside the moral compass of the world they inhabit.

* Shakespeare wrote Macbeth as a man, but our play is a gender-flipped world, where traditional male and female roles are reversed.

Which scene resonates most strongly with you and why ?
I adore the intimate scenes in the play, where we see the strong bonds between various characters. For example, Act 1, Scene 5 where we first meet Lord Macbeth and see the couple together. Their love and the solace that they take in one another makes their eventual demise (spoiler alert!) all the more tragic. I also love the glimpse we see into Banquo and her Daughter Fleance’s relationship, as Fleance teeters on the verge of womanhood, thus nears the start of her fighting career. The relationship between Hecate – an often omitted character, and the leader of the witches – and her three awkward witch sons takes a very interesting turn in our play…

Any behind the scenes anecdotes ?
Well I just mentioned Hecate and her relationship to the witches, otherwise known as the “Weird Sisters” (she always wanted girls). We did have a memorable rehearsal where we were exploring this bizarre family unit; I recall that one of the witches got out of line and received a swift and arresting smack on the bottom from Hecate.

How would you describe the play in food form ?
Maybe a goulash – lots of hearty ingredients, meaty, delicious, sometimes messy, with the occasional surprise lurking at the bottom of the pot.

Who or what inspires you ?
People who seek to make change inspire me. I admire those who are brave and proactive enough to stand up to bullies, speak up for what is right, and make personal sacrifices in order that other, less fortunate people may have a voice.

What’s next for you ?
I’m putting on my acting hat to perform in The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui at Theatre Works in late August.

What’s your scene ?
I’m happiest in my local park in Thornbury with a coffee in my hand and my puppies causing mischief by my side. Followed by a glass of red with friends at the Raccoon Bar.

About The Tragedy of Macbeth:

The Tragedy of Macbeth: flipping gender on its head

Why swap the genders in Macbeth? wit incorporated says, “Why not?” They’re presenting what might be the first ever gender-flipped casting of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy.

Director Jennifer Innes says it’s a great way to honour and explore Shakespeare, on the 400th anniversary of his death. “Macbeth is set roughly 500 years prior to Shakespeare’s time, yet still appealed to an audience who were able to see their own struggles reflected on the stage,” says Innes. “The themes of ambition, corruption, greed, power still move us, because they are universal – even if the scope and focus of our struggles may change.

“We have all battled with greed; with the desire to break our own moral code just a little bit to get ahead. We have all taken the less ethical, more self-serving option at times – pushing back the line of right and wrong. But at what cost? What happens when humans go too far and lose their humanity? Every time we turn on the news we are flooded with answers to this question.”

“What has changed since Shakespeare’s time is conversation around gender and privilege. By flipping the genders of our characters, we hope to add to the current conversation, generating discussion, debate and probably arguments. Bring it on. We’re ready.”

The production sees a nation of powerful women and subservient men thrown into turmoil by Queen Duncan’s murder. wit incorporated Artistic Director and co-founder, Belinda Campbell, says playing Macbeth has been an enlightening experience. “I wish everyone could experience this process of imagining a world where our roles are reversed,” she says. “It makes you dissect what we think about gender and our place in society; what we’ve learned and how we’ve learned it.

“These characters aren’t reliant on their gender to make sense. The story is the thing that matters, and a good story works regardless of the gender of the characters.”

Company Manager and co-founder Jennifer Piper, who plays Banquo, says it’s important to take a stand. “There’s no need for women in our stories to only ever be stereotypes,” she says. “It’s unrealistic, and it’s boring.

“How great would it be if we got to see as much diversity on stage and we see on the street? We’re starting with gender, because it’s the closest thing to our own experience. We can’t wait to work with other members of Melbourne’s amazing theatre industry to bring ever more diversity to the stage in the future.”

Innes says that while discussions of privilege inspired the gender-flip, it’s not the only element of the play. “This is The Tragedy of Macbeth, and there’s a very good reason why it’s a Shakespearean favourite,” she says.

“It has everything – action, intrigue, love, fight scenes, and one drunken porter.”

Chad O’Brien, who plays Lord Macbeth (formerly Lady Macbeth), says that swapping the genders in the play isn’t a big deal in terms of storytelling. “This is a really bold and brave production, and that is being reflected in the performances by this strong ensemble” he says. “There are so many different women in the world and it is deeply inspiring to see those people finally represented on stage.”

This is a strictly limited season, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Tickets on sale now at witinc.com.au/whats-on/macbeth

The Tragedy of Macbeth

Directed by Jennifer Innes

Opening Night: Friday 12 August at 8pm
Saturday 13 August 8pm
Sunday 14 August 1pm
Thursday 18 August 8pm
Friday 19 August 8pm
Saturday 20 August 8pm
Sunday 21 August 1pm
Thursday 25 August 8pm
Friday 26 August 8pm
Saturday 27 August 8pm

Where: Bluestone Church Arts Space, 10A Hyde Street, Footscray VIC 3011

Tickets: $28 Full / $25 Concession

Cast: Jane Barry, Belinda Campbell, James Cerche, Guillym Davenport, Briony Farrell, Alexandra Hines, Chad O’Brien, Marissa O’Reilly, Jennifer Piper, Cait Spiker, Tammy Weller

Creative team: Allison Bell, Sarah Clarke, Elizabeth Esguerra, Jessica Lawrence, Penny McDonald, Jennifer Piper, Felicity Steel

Warning: This play contains staged violence.

Bookings: www.witinc.com.au/whats-on/macbeth

About Anna-Maria Megalogenis 157 Articles
Anna-Maria has been writing for Street Press in Melbourne and Sydney for over 20 years. She is passionate about food, music and the arts, is an avid reader and used to hand write reviews for Beat Magazine at the Great Britain Hotel, where a patron once suggested she was ripping off articles in Rolling Stone magazine.