ED2017 Chris Meets ED2017 Dance & Physical Theatre ED2017 Interviews ED2017 Review Edition

Kally Lloyd-Jones: Lady Macbeth

By | Published on Thursday 3 August 2017

We last checked in with dance company Company Chordelia in 2015 when they presented their show ‘Nijinsky’s Last Jump’. This year they return with a fascinating piece exploring the character and story of Lady Macbeth. Three men take on the role in the show, which also incorporates British Sign Language into the choreography, giving BSL practitioners an alternative perspective.
I spoke to the company’s Artistic Director Kally Lloyd-Jones about her new production, what drew her to the character of Lady Macbeth, and her tie-up with co-producer Solar Bear on the BSL element of the show.

CC: What made you want to construct a piece around the character of Lady Macbeth?
KLJ: Ever since I read the play at school I have been fascinated by Lady Macbeth. A few years ago I worked on a production of the Verdi opera of the play and it tells the story by distilling the scenes into something which is more about the Macbeths and their relationship. This reignited my interest in her character because, although she is so pivotal, she soon recedes into the background and disappears until we only hear of her death second hand. I wanted to delve into her psyche and think about what motivates her, piecing together information and imagining what drives her story.

CC: What process did you go through in creating the piece?
KLJ: I always spend quite a lot of time researching, thinking, drawing storyboards, choosing music and pieces of text, and I arrive in the studio with quite a clear sense of where it’s all going. And then the cast are the final pieces of the jigsaw and I work with them to create the piece.

CC: Is there a narrative? What themes do you explore?
KLJ: The narrative tells the story of Lady Macbeth, but I would say it’s not linear, because it’s a bit like being inside her head and we explore the complexity and journey of her character. The piece explores themes of motherhood, power, guilt, conscience and madness.

CC: What made you decide to cast men to play the part of Lady Macbeth?
KLJ: I wanted men to play Lady Macbeth as they would have done in Shakespeare’s time, and this creates an exploration of femininity and masculinity, within the character as well as the transformation of the three male actors immersing themselves in the role.

CC: And why a three-hander rather than a solo piece?
KLJ: I decided on three performers to reference the three witches and the power of that elemental and supernatural world to which I think Lady Macbeth is connected. I also liked the idea of three very different performers manifesting the role with different inflections and interpretations.

CC: You have Georgina Bell Godolphin providing the voice of Lady Macbeth. How do those elements fit into the show?
KLJ: The voice of Lady Macbeth is embedded into the soundtrack. It creates a sense of hearing the voice in her head. Those who hear will hear fragments of Lady Macbeth’s text and those who don’t will get the same information through British Sign Language.

CC: How did you go about selecting the music for the production?
KLJ: That’s difficult to answer! I am always listening to music and I just feel intuitively what will create the right mood and sense for a scene. It provides an emotional landscape or backdrop for the action – often giving something which provides a tension or opposition to what the eye sees.

CC: You mentioned the use of British Sign Language in the production. Tell us more about the tie-up with Solar Bear – who regularly work with deaf performers – and what the integration of BSL brings to the piece.
KLJ: We are making dance theatre with BSL as an embedded part of the choreography, so that meaning through movement unites both a formal and an informal language which is not spoken. BSL is a movement language – very beautiful, descriptive, emotional – and this piece explores making it an integral part of the language of the piece as opposed to using it as a “translation”.

One of the cast members, Jacob, is profoundly deaf and he is fully integrated into the show. I felt it was important, if I was to explore the possibilities of BSL, to make sure that I was making a piece which is truly accessibly to deaf audiences as well as hearing audiences, and that I was treating their language with respect. Solar Bear were very enthusiastic about this project and came on board as co-producers. They have been invaluable in providing support and expertise in this field, and BSL interpreter Yvonne Strain who worked with us on the project has been really brilliant.

CC: Do you think people who understand British Sign Language will get something different or extra from the production?
KLJ: Yes – and I think this is quite unique because, as I said, the language is integral and embedded rather than being a “translation”. BSL practitioners will see meaning in the movement which will read differently than the way non-BSL practitioners will interpret movement on an emotional level. Though some of the show is simply movement and visual theatre – which works more pictorially and emotionally and so will have a more universal impact – and, of course, a show is always interpreted differently by every single audience member anyway.

CC: Fringe-regulars may remember your last show ‘Nijinsky’s Last Jump’ – how does this production compare?
KLJ: Ah well, I think they must have a style or resonance in common because I can’t help being me! And I suppose there is an overlapping theme, which is about vulnerability and the mental and emotional consequences of things, but they are also very different shows. A main strength of both shows is the fantastic commitment and brilliance of the cast, and the designer Janis Hart and lighting designer Laura Hawkins.

CC: How important is it for you to bring your work to the Edinburgh Fringe?
KLJ: Bringing my work to the Fringe provides the opportunity for it to be seen by a very broad and international audience, as well as promoters from around the world, and also – importantly – we can perform for a long run, which is a rare opportunity for a small company.

CC: You are back at Dance Base – are they a good partner for projects like this?
KLJ: Dance Base is brilliant. I love it – it is a good size performing space but also feels very intimate, which is a combination I like very much. They are a supportive, practised, knowledgeable and friendly venue who make performing at the Fringe very pleasurable, so I am really delighted that Company Chordelia has been invited back.

Company Chordelia’s ’Lady Macbeth’ was performed at Dance Base at Edinburgh Festival 2017.

Photo: Jane Hobson