The high point of our project was a full-scale Equity production of William Davenant’s Macbeth (c. 1664), directed by Robert Richmond, in the Folger’s Elizabethan indoor theatre from September 4-23, 2018. The cast for this special engagement was led by Helen Hayes Award-winners Ian Merrill Peakes (Macbeth) and Kate Eastwood Norris (Lady Macbeth). The production also featured original period music by John Eccles, Matthew Locke, and Henry Purcell, performed by Folger Consort and directed by Bob Eisenstein. The performance run was completely sold out before opening night.
The production was funded by a $250,000 grant from the AHRC. Crucially, scholar-artist collaboration was an integral part of rehearsals; and scholars associated with our project were at the heart of the creative process leading up to the performances in September. This also allowed us to develop a collaborative scholar-artist model for rehearsals that can be replicated in future theatre productions.
This project with the Folger, which offered audiences a rare occasion to experience a play not seen since the mid-18th century, attracted wide press coverage, including in the Washington Post. Our revival of Davenant’s Macbeth also obtained a 5-star review from DC Theatre Scene, which described it as ‘entirely remarkable and unforgettable’, while the dcist commented: ‘What’s old is new again. And what’s new is thrilling’.
For press coverage of the production and our collaboration with the Folger, see:
For reviews of the production, see:
Our production of Macbeth was also featured by the AHRC and UKRI as prime examples of the cultural and social impact of UK research:
The research team for our production of Macbeth comprised Richard Schoch (Queen’s University Belfast), Amanda Eubanks Winkler (Syracuse University), Claude Fretz (Queen’s University Belfast), Lisa Freeman (University of Illinois at Chicago), Sarah Ledwidge (Trinity College, Dublin), Deborah Payne (American University), Andrew Walkling (Binghamton University), and Stephen Watkins (University of Southampton). Using reflective practice, we investigated, for example, how the play’s episodes of music and dance – described by Samuel Pepys as a ‘strange perfection in a tragedy’ – reshape its structure and meaning. In 2.5, for instance, Macduff and Lady Macduff confront singing and dancing witches that jubilantly prophesy regicide. We investigated multiple staging possibilities for this scene that reconciled the witches’ deeds with (what audiences now might interpret as) their cheerful music.
Short videos documenting our research and workshops are freely available to the public, and are hosted on our website and YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCruFzmO4ohtbBjObTF9fO1g). In addition, a full archival performance recording is being made available to scholars at the Folger Shakespeare Library and to the general public in the two repositories of the Washington Area Performing Arts Video Archive (WPAVA): the central branch of the Washington, DC Public Library, and nearby Maryland University.
Primary materials informing our practice included Restoration versions of Macbeth (1674, 1687, 1695), a Restoration promptbook (Folger Mac Smock Alley), and extant musical settings for Davenant’s Macbeth (Leveridge 1702, Eccles 1694, Locke 1670s).