Shakespeare at Notre Dame presents two-man ‘Macbeth’
Alexandra Muck | Wednesday, October 30, 2019
Shakespeare at Notre Dame will host two performances of “Macbeth” Oct. 30 and Oct. 31 at 7:30 p.m. at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Unlike other “Macbeth” performances, these showings of the Shakespeare play will only include two actors: Paul O’Mahony and Troels Hagen Findsen.
The play follows the story of Macbeth — a Scottish general who is told by three witches that he is destined to become king of Scotland — and his wife, Lady Macbeth. Together, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth take a series of steps to fulfill the prophecy.
“It’s a story of ambition and what you do once you attain power — it’s a compelling exploration of our nature,” O’Mahony, who plays Macbeth and several other characters, said in an email. “We’ve aimed to explore some of the lightness within what is often a challenging and bloody play.”
O’Mahony said the show, which will last 80 minutes, is a bit different since it is only performed by two people.
“It’s quite a physical show and we have many scenes where we’re playing multiple characters,” he said.
O’Mahony said he and director Mike Tweddle knew when selecting the play they wanted to do a show with only two people, so it became one of the selection criteria for the play.
“We knew that we wanted to create the show with just me and Troels … after he and I worked together on some of our earlier productions,” O’Mahony said. “A lot of our earlier work was devised and we were keen to tackle text.”
Given this constraint, O’Mahony said they looked for a play with strong pairs of relationships. He said while they re-read several Shakespeare plays to find one to perform, “Macbeth” kept grabbing their attention since it has “enduring relevance” and there are multiple pairs present in the work.
“Most famously there’s Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, but there’s also Macbeth and Banquo (who start as close friends but become estranged), Macbeth [and] Macduff, Malcolm and Macduff and Macduff and Ross,” he said in the email.
Using just two people, O’Mahony said, meant they could focus on the pairs for the relationships.
“We found that by stripping away some of the elements which are sometimes relied on in bigger productions, it allowed us to focus more on the relationships between these pairs, and to share the story more clearly,” he said. “It created a lot of work for us, but the restrictions forced us to find creative solutions.”
To create a production that O’Mahony said they hope “feels fresh and exciting” and “[offers] a new take on the story,” he said they made some changes to the play, including cutting some storylines and combining characters.
For this reason, O’Mahony said the scene after Duncan’s death is one of his favorites in the play.
“That’s the scene where we play the most characters and we had to find a lot of solutions for how we could stage something so epic with just the two of us,” he said.
Another favorite part of the performance for O’Mahony has been exploring the character of Ross.
“Macbeth goes on an amazing journey and it all happens so quickly (especially in our production), but I’ve also really enjoyed playing Ross whose role we’ve increased by giving him lines from other thanes,” he said in the email. “His relationship with Macduff and the way he encourages others to rebel has been fascinating to explore.”
O’Mahony said he hopes the audience is surprised by the resulting performance.
“We’d like them to feel that they were included within the story, that they were sometimes put on the spot as to whether they supported the Macbeths or not,” he said in the email.
Tickets for “Macbeth” are available online on the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center’s website.