Alan Cumming meets LTW reporter Vivienne Wilson ahead of opening night of his new production of Macbeth.

“I knew it would be a fucker” said Alan Cumming.

He’d just sat down across the table from me in the Tramway in Glasgow. His new production of Macbeth opens there tonight.

Cumming looks lean and fit, he’d been explaining why he’s been training so hard in a gym in New York with a personal trainer for months.

Set in a psychiatric unit, this version of the play centres on a patient who is reliving the story of Macbeth. CCTV cameras watch the patient’s every move and the walls of the unit are brought to life in a multi-media theatrical production built around Cumming’s energetic and compelling performance.

Cumming has returned to the National Theatre of Scotland to work with directors, John Tiffany and Andrew Goldberg. Ali Craig and Myra McFadyen provide the supporting cast as the doctor and attendant (gentlewoman).

“I have been obsessed with Macbeth for as long as I can remember.” Explains Cumming “It was the first Shakespeare I ever read, the first I was ever in and it continues to haunt and inspire me.”

The set is certainly haunting. It has been built to look like an old Victorian hospital. Pale green tiles line the walls. Set Designer, Merle Hensel, said that she had been inspired by pale green screens while looking at pictures of old hospitals on the internet.

She has created a performance space that looks like it used to be a ward, but is now a part of a hospital that is rarely used. It has an underground, ghostly feel and hits you with a strong pungent stench of hospital disinfectant when you are sat in front of it.

Asked why Macbeth and not another Shakespeare play, he clarifies, “It works well, because there is so much madness in it.”

The CCTV cameras add to the oppressive atmosphere and Cumming plays off them highlighting the worsening mental state of his character. Cumming states that one of the things he really likes is that this production and the actual play merge together in a fascinating way.

“It is like doing Macbeth through a prism.”

“Lady Macbeth has very masculine qualities and Macbeth…” he trails off “I like the idea of swapping them around.”

Later he adds, “Macbeth and Lady Macbeth sound the same at times. I blend them at times ”“ deliberately.”

He’s full of praise for the National Theatre of Scotland too, telling me: “Not every national theatre would do a weird re-working of one of our most famous plays.”

This Macbeth has taken 18 months to get to opening night.

It is on at the Tramway Theatre in Glasgow from 13th ”“ 30th June and at Lincoln Center Festival in New York City from 5th to the 14th July. Tickets are still available for some of the Glasgow shows. Call the Tramway box office on 0141 276 0950 to check availability.

He’s reminded of the time when he acted in a previous production of Macbeth 27 years ago and asked if he imagined himself doing this so many years later.

“I thought I’d be doing King Lear.” He replies with the same rueful smile he had in 1985. “I thought I’d be retired, living in a croft, eating toffees.”

I , for one, am very glad he’s not.

All words by Vivienne Wilson. You can read more from Vivienne on LTW here.

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