Macbeth… Shakespeare’s classic tragedy… “The Scottish Play”… probably requires little introduction, as it has been a staple of students of English Literature around the globe. Most of us probably studied Macbeth at school, struggling with the arcane early-seventeenth century language, but drawn in by the prophecy of the witches, the rampant ambition, the violence, and the catastrophic downfall as first the manipulative Lady Macbeth and then the self-appointed King himself start to crumble.
So, with thousands of dramatic productions and over thirty celuloid representations of Macbeth, the challenge is how to bring something new to the party?
Kit Monkman grew up in a fascinating literary household. His father was a scholar of the works of Laurence Sterne, and saved Shandy Hall for the nation, moving his family from London to Coxwold in North Yorkshire where Sterne had written “The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman” in the eighteenth century. It is believed to be the first novel in the English language which is non-linear: something which we are now very used to seeing in films with flash-backs, dream-sequences, and multiple plot-lines. The story was adapted on film in 2006 as A Cock And Bull Story, directed by Michael Winterbottom. The books, printed as instalments, made Sterne famous and wealthy and ‘Shandy Hall’ as it became known was extended. So it was in this significant restoration project that the young Kit Monkman grew up.
Kit Monkman makes films, installations and interactive public artworks that investigate the relationship between the audience and the performer. Using 100% green-screen filmmaking as an experiment, his first feature film was an adaptation of Anthony McGowan’s novel The Knife That Killed Me, working with the renowned Pilot Theatre Company.
Following the success of this, Kit claimed, “I want to make films that reignite the imaginative participation of the audience, films that celebrate theatricality, make-believe, and thrive on the viewers’ co-creation of what unfolds. There has, I feel, been a gradual shift away from our ancestral heritage – the telling of stories around the camp fire, a shared enchantment in the dark that brings to life a diversity of inner visions. We seem to be in danger of confining the role of the audience to that of spectator – or consumer.”
In many ways, Macbeth is the perfect vehicle to continue that drive – using green-screen graphic ways to explore the psychological struggles in the minds of the primary characters.
Again, Kit says, “Shakespeare’s genius encompasses a deft and fluid ability to weave complex poetic threads that bind together the outer material story, and the inner psychological narrative. At one moment the audience understands Macbeth’s words as an expression of material reality, at the next, as an exploration of his inner consciousness. Cinema makes us into spectators. However much we empathise or engage, we are always watching from the outside. By changing the language and (quite literally) the perspective of cinema our Macbeth uses the screen to explore the internal territory that Shakespearean language renders so powerfully.”
Macbeth (2018) is showing at selected Picturehouse Cinemas and screenings will be followed by fifteen minutes of footage documenting ‘The Making Of Macbeth: The Film’.Find your cinema and book tickets