As part of our 'Four Years On' series, director Hannah Drake caught up with the original cast of Macbeth at the Redcliffe Caves to hear what they're doing now, and how the production shaped them.
In today's blog, James D Kent shares his experience playing the multiple roles of WITCH, DOCTOR and (rightful heir to the throne) MALCOLM.
HANNAH: James! I can't believe it's been four years since 'Macbeth at the Redcliffe Caves'! What made you want to get involved with the production back in 2015?
JAMES: I had recently finished touring another production and was planning what my next steps were going to be; do I look for auditions or apply for drama school? I remember being contacted about the plan of staging Macbeth in caves for some weeks which oddly sounded like a great idea and who wouldn’t want to work the people who came up with an idea like that; Utterly passionate.
HANNAH: Do you remember how it felt performing in the caves? Did you find it quite challenging?
JAMES: The caves were a gift and a curse. Playing out Macbeth in a stifling and dramatic location really added to the narrative and the atmosphere which I felt really resonated with the audience.
However, I remember it being a beautiful summer and to spend it in a damp and dark cave was slightly draining - especially the dust that would relentlessly end up in your throat!
HANNAH: Yes, I remember the dust vividly - and I didn't have to perform there. Amongst those obstacles, do you have any favourite memories from the experience?
JAMES: It’s hard to select one moment out of this project and if I’m allowed to be corny the memory is of the people. The group of people that worked all over this production were the perfect bunch to venture into a dark cave for a summer of sword swinging.
As the youngest of the group I never felt isolated or unsupported despite the barrage of “too young” jokes that I had to endure.
HANNAH: As you were the youngest in the team, do you think the experience shaped you?
JAMES: In the best way possible it helped me understand the work I want to make and the role I have in making it.
I haven’t gone near Shakespeare since and I have only acted in one other show since Macbeth in 2015. This project made me aware that acting, especially in a scripted performance, might not be for me and working with you and Justin, with your vision and passion, seemed more intriguing than acting, especially when I became aware I don't have the same skill and performative drive as the people I was lucky to share the text with.
A short trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival the following year was the final nail in the acting coffin and now I’m the one sending people into “caves" for my vision.
I’m extremely grateful and honoured to have been in the original production of Insane Root’s Macbeth and I’m extremely relieved you replaced me with someone much more deserving of that role when it came back!
HANNAH: That's such an interesting perspective. I think there's a bit of a myth that if you're in theatre you have to love every moment of it, and to move on to other things can be a bit taboo - I'm glad your experience with us was a positive one, even if it was a catalyst in your moving on from the stage. Do you have a favourite moment from the show itself?
JAMES: Hard one to answer. It’s a toss up between hearing the songs echo around the cave as I stood in the dark somewhere hidden and watching Rob and Ben in their final exchange from behind a corner. I must emphasise that [there were] many more but I’ve narrowed it down to these two.
(Of course the doctors costume was fantastic and I still dream about it.)
HANNAH: Thanks for sharing these memories with us, James!
2015 Production Photography by Graham Burke
Rehearsal Photography by Lisa Hounsome Photography