In the final instalment of our 'Four Years On' series, director Hannah Drake caught up with the original castmember of Macbeth at the Redcliffe Caves Zach Powell to hear what he's doing now, and how the production shaped him.
Zach played the dual roles of BANQUO and MURDERER/SEYTON - two very different 'best friends' to Macbeth.
HANNAH: Zach, I still remember your audition so clearly. What was it that made you want to do this production?
ZACH: From first seeing the casting breakdown for the show on the Theatre Bristol website, I really wanted to get involved with the production and the company. Bristol is such a thriving city for the arts and it is fantastic to see burgeoning independent companies grow and thrive here.
The mission statement for Insane Root just seemed so perfect for the hub of creativity that is Bristol and the have the opportunity to be a part of the beginning of the journey for a company like this could not be passed up. I'm so glad that I was invited to work with Insane Root and be a part of making their maiden production a reality.
HANNAH: Do you remember visiting the caves for the first time? What was it like?
ZACH: I remember very vividly the first time I walked into the caves and realised just what it would be to perform this particular play in that setting. It was like our final cast member, just such a perfect environment to tell this particular tale of Shakespeare's. One reviewer described it as like being surrounded by Macbeth's "heat oppressed brain" and I couldn't have put it any better myself.
Sure, it was a dusty, dark and sometimes wet environment which isn't ideal for performance as these conditions can affect the voice etc but with the correct techniques and warm-up methods this was completely controllable and, frankly, I feel the caves did their best to look after us and for what they offered in terms or realism to the play and this dark and broody atmosphere to perform in, I would have been prepared to suffer much more.
HANNAH: Do you have a favourite memory from the process?
ZACH: This is a difficult question. Firstly, it seems hard to pinpoint one moment in so many whilst we were working there: so many things seem to drift into one as you're going through a process like this and there are so many exquisite memories to choose from.
I do remember the feeling of finishing the very first show and walking back into reality and thinking to myself truly "I understand now, what this project was always about". I've seen the play in other settings a few times and maybe it's because I was on stage but I'd hazard a guess to say the audience felt the same: "this was real, this was what it is really about" there was no real fourth wall to speak of. The company and the audience had just gone through a real experience that will stay with us truly forever.
HANNAH: I know what you mean. When Justin and I were trying to come up with a name for the company there was something about your line:
"were such things here as we do speak about?
Or have we eaten on th'insane root that takes the reason prisoner?"
...that really stood out - I think the experience of Macbeth for the audience was a bit like eating on that trippy root. Especially when walking back out into the summer sunshine!
What are the performance itself? Anything that really sticks with you?
ZACH: Again, so many moments! I remember only just being able to catch Ben's [Macbeth's] eye through the candles when Macbeth and Banquo spoke in the dead of night. It felt real.
I remember Banquo leaving after discovering the duplicity of Macbeth and both of the men knowing this was to be the bloody end of their friendship, it felt real.
I remember the murderer revealing himself to Macduff's family and they and him knowing that they would not escape that room alive, it felt real.
I remember Macbeth's understanding that the witches had tricked him and Macduff would be his undoing, it felt real.
An honourable mention must also be made for the sword fight, blades swinging so near the faces of the audience but so much trust was in that room and so much care and attention had been given to that piece of choreography, that was a great achievement by all.
As I've mentioned a few times, so much of it felt real and I think that is the best memory I have from this project. It began to not feel like a play and more like a truthful rendering of a very important tale to tell. I feel we all very much did it justice.
HANNAH: Who knows? Maybe this isn't the last we've seen of this show...
2015 Production Photography by Graham Burke
Rehearsal Photography by Lisa Hounsome Photography
2016 Production Photography by Jamie Corbin