Brisbane’s Danger Ensemble, well known for their street punk aesthetic and collaborations with artists such as Amanda Palmer, are set for a change of tone as they stage Shakespeare’s classic 'Macbeth' at QACI Theatre.
Actress Elle Mickel is taking on the role of Lady Macbeth in the production. A graduate of WAAPA and former QACI member, this is the first major production role for the 23-year-old. “I’ve known (Director Steven Mitchell Wright) for a really long time, and then when I graduated he said do you want to play Lady Macbeth, and I was like… Yes! It was a dream come true to be asked,” she says.
We ask her about the conjunction of her freshness with a character that is generally considered to be an older woman. “All we really know about her is that she’s married to Macbeth and that they’ve lost a child… It’s never really specified how old she is. That’s awesome for us because it means we can look into it. I get to explore a different side to her.”
While it was not a deliberate choice to have a sizable age difference between the two main characters in 'Macbeth', age became key to Elle’s original approach to characterisation of Lady Macbeth, an aspirational manipulator who instigates much of the play’s bloody action through influence on her husband. She eventually suffers guilt as a result.
“I thought it would be interesting to explore how when we’re young there can be this larger than life passion; ‘I want it now’ and ‘let’s just go for it’ and not much afterthought about consequences. So I’m really approaching (the character) from that sort of place.”
While most of her preparation work for the role came from within, Elle also did research to construct Lady Macbeth’s presentation as a public figure: “I definitely looked around at… Really powerful women in media, in television… Actually one of my favourite female roles is the role Jada Pinkett-Smith plays in 'Gotham' – she plays Fish Mooney, she’s just a badass woman. I do love that character and went back to it to draw a bit of that complete surety of self.”
Chris Beckey, who has previously played Caligula and is now cast as Macbeth, illuminates how the actors approached the characters individually, which adds to the onstage tension. “One of the things that Steven does in the rehearsal process is (highlight) disagreements, where things don’t exactly line up. I think Elle and I both agree that it was an arranged marriage, but I think we have different takes on how that dynamic developed. From my perspective… Love and passion was found within the relationship. It wasn’t a business arrangement.”
Chris says that there are timeless themes in 'Macbeth' which contemporary audiences will relate to vividly: “What we’re doing with the production is looking at how people sacrifice the future to look after their present state. I think we are very much living in an age where we are reaping seeds that were sewn in the '80s… There are some figures in politics that I have tied Macbeth to. Trump is a very obvious one, there are definitely parallels there, the way that Trump behaves, that very charming public façade and then these rage-filled tweets.”
Is 'Macbeth' the play to see for people who are tired of the current state of politics and the unsavoury characters the profession attracts?
“I don’t think it’s politics necessarily but power,” Chris says. “ It’s that old adage of ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely'.”
'Macbeth' plays from 9-25 February at Queensland Academy for Creative Industries.