Aonghus Óg McAnally will star in Big Telly Theatre Company’s new online production of Macbeth. Directed by the theatre company’s founder Zoe Seaton, this atmospheric Macbeth is a timeless blood-soaked tale of murder, lust and power, in a world where reality and illusion are hard to tell apart; a hinterland of hype where fate is twisted, control is remote, and comfort is in entirely another zone.
The world premiere of this fully immersive digital theatrical production will open at the 58th edition of the Belfast International Arts Festival (BIAF), Ireland’s leading contemporary international arts festival and the highlight of this year’s virtual programme. The show, which has been specifically produced for this socially distanced world, will be performed live on screen for four nights before transferring to Creation Theatre’s platform as a co-production until 31st October. A special midnight show will be performed on the 30th October, the night before All Hallow’s Eve.
You’re returning to the stage in Macbeth, what can you tell us about this version?
Forget what you think you know about the play, this is a brand new digital version of Shakespeare’s classic thriller, built bespoke for the 21st century. Stripped back to 75 minutes and with a cast of 5, it’s an action packed, horror-infused, online experience unlike anything you’ve seen before. And most importantly, it’s LIVE so anything can happen.
You’ve been concentrating on directing the last few years, what persuaded you to return to acting?
It was always my intention to have both strands of my career running simultaneously, but I was never arrogant enough to think that just because I’d spent so much time in rehearsal rooms as an actor that I’d automatically be able to direct – not every great soccer player makes a great manager. So about 10 years ago I started out small, directing short pieces to see if I could do it, and I really fell in love with it. Ultimately I had to take the leap and start directing full scale plays, to prove to both myself and the industry that I could, and thankfully the work has been really well received. I think I’ve enough shows under my belt as a director now that I confidently jump back and forth between the two disciplines.
You’ll be performing Macbeth live each night to be streamed online, what kind of challenges do you think that will present?
I’ll just be praying that my 4 year old doesn’t walk in on me mid-scene! I think that “live- ness” is the really exciting part of this project, that other digital theatre experiences simply can’t offer. Just as anything can happen when you go to live theatre, of course there’s the possibility of tech glitches or wifi dropping out, but our stage and production managers are IT whizzes, so I’ve total faith in them… no pressure!
What are you looking forward to most about performing in Macbeth?
The audience interaction is going to be intriguing, we’ll literally be bringing the audience into the show. Whether it’s interactive Zoom polls, text messages from the witches, or watching Banquo’s death filmed on mobile phone, the audience will be right at the heart of the action, which poses interesting questions for them about how complicit they are in the underhand goings-on.
You come from a family of performers, but we suspect you’ll be the first to perform online, why do you think these productions are so important to keep theatre alive?
My grandparents were both actually incredibly tech savvy, so I’ve no doubt if they were still around they’d be all over a project like this! I think keeping live theatre available is so important, because humans have an innate and fundamental need for storytelling. From the Shamans in Central America to the ancient Irish Seanchaí, stories are how we make sense of the world around us. Keeping that flame burning, and in particular keeping the communal element of theatre is vital. And let’s face it, with so much bad news at the moment, we could all do with a little entertainment.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to watch Macbeth?
Grab your family, flatmates, or friends and go for it! It’s perfect fun now in Halloween’s spooky season, it’s safe, socially distanced entertainment, and as the price is per device it’s brilliant value. Cast it to the TV from your laptop, phone, or tablet, gather your gang around, and brace yourself for a great night in.
Macbeth starring Aonghus Óg McAnally headlines the Belfast International Arts Festival. Booking link from 14 – 17 October at https://belfastinternationalartsfestival.com/event/macbeth/ then transfers online from 21– 31 Oct – to Creation Theatre. Booking link www.creationtheatre.co.uk. Box office – 01865 766266.