Alex Kingston is going big or going home. Performing in the cavernous Park Avenue Armory, playing the complex role of Lady Macbeth alongside the British Shakespeare star Kenneth Branagh as the Thane of Cawdor in an immersive production of Shakespeare's tragedy, Kingston is making an ambitious New York stage debut.
Known to TV fans as Elizabeth Corday on the NBC drama "ER," and more recently as River Song on the BBC science fiction show "Dr. Who," Kingston returns to the ambitious, athletic production that features lengthy sword fights as well as actual fire, rain and mud, following its 2013 production in the Manchester International Festival.
Kingston, whose work includes One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as well as the films "The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders" and the the mini-series "Lost in Austen," talked with Playbill.com about finding the humanity within her character, what Lady Macbeth would do if she could time travel and more.
You starred as Lady Macbeth in the original production in Manchester. What has your experience been returning to the play a year later?
Alex Kingston: It's the same production, but it's also totally different from last year. It's exciting because as much as it feels like we're putting on sort of a nice familiar piece of clothing, at the same time, it's like, "Oh my goodness — it's a completely different fit." It's exciting and terrifying at the same time.
Macbeth was staged in a deconsecrated Romanesque church as part of the Manchester International Festival. The Park Avenue Armory is 55,000 square feet — a slightly bigger performance venue.
AK: It's interesting because it feels like less of a piece of theatre or theatrical performance in a way. There are associations with doing a play, which are being in a theatre. And this [is] sort of arena... I'm still kind of finding my way in terms of how to compensate and deal with that, actually. Certainly the original performance, even though we were in a church, it was an incredibly intimate space. We had a very limited audience capacity, so it definitely was a completely different production in that respect. So our job is to, within our performance space, still try and retain that intimacy and retain that very immediate connection that the audience had with the play and with the characters.
The play brings the elements of nature into the Armory — dirt, rain and fire. It's also very violent; the audience gets to see the battles rather than hear the characters discuss them.
AK: When we were teching, it was the first time that I saw the very spectacular opening scene. I had never seen it. I'm onstage, but my back is turned. I could hear everything that was going on. I was so longing to turn around, but I couldn't. Yesterday for the first time in tech, I decided I was actually going to turn around and watch them. It was fantastic. I feel like I've now at least got to experience what the audience is going to experience.
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