Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Emma McDonald: Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By | Published on Friday 17 January 2020

The renowned Watermill Ensemble, from the Watermill Theatre in Berkshire, are headed to Wilton’s Music Hall this month to perform two Shakespeare plays in rep, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, and I’d really like to see both of them.

To find out more about the productions, and the Watermill Ensemble itself, I put some questions to cast member Emma McDonald, who plays Titania and Lady Macbeth.

CM: You’re appearing at Wilton’s Music Hall in two different plays. How easy will it be to switch between the two?
EM: Well I’ve had a fair bit of practice, as we’ve toured both shows in rep last year and both were well received which was fantastic.

It helped finding a bit of a pre-show routine even if that was as simple as having a bit of a sing song in the dressing room or applying nail polish and lashes for lady M or copious amounts of glitter for Titania.

Both productions also start with such strong musicality and physicality which helps greatly; ‘Macbeth’ is punchy, electronic and incredibly muscular and ‘Midsummer’ is lighter, cheekier and more soulful. Therefore, your body and muscle memory is immediately there, even if it sometimes takes a while for your brain to catch up.

I did find whilst on tour that I would sometimes head into the theatre not knowing which production we would be doing and would find out based on what clothes were set up ready in the dressing room – what fun!

CM: I think readers will know what ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is all about, but can you tell us about your approach to your role in it?
EM: To revel in the silliness of it, to embrace the weird and the wonderful and to have an open heart. Also to have real clarity in the earlier Titania scenes and to fully conjure the imagery of what it is she’s saying and to allow her the space to say it and to see it.

CM: You are playing Lady Macbeth – is it a role that you have aspired to? What made you want to play it?
EM: She’s great fun to play, and when offered the role I really couldn’t turn it down! Have I aspired to play her? No, I don’t think so. To be honest, I think being so young I didn’t think it would be a part I would play for some time.

Her speeches are wondrous and she is one powerful woman with an enormous heart and a quick mind. The relationship between her and Macbeth is like nothing else. The power, the sensuality, the thrill of it all and the gigantic loss. She goes on such a huge journey over the course of the play and going on that journey with Billy Postlethwaite – who plays Macbeth – is a delight. We both really like to play with one another in the space which means every night is entirely different.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the company behind these stagings, and how you came to be involved with the shows?
EM: The company is the Watermill Theatre Ensemble. We’re a group of ten actor musicians with 50:50 ratio of men to women and all relatively young. Some cast members play up to eight instruments and we do the plays in rep, so a couple of Shakespeares with the same company at the same time. I joined the company with the touring productions of ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘Romeo And Juliet’ and they’ve not yet been able to get rid of me yet. We brought ‘Twelfth Night’ to Wilton’s a year or so ago, and we’re very happy to be bringing these two now.

CM: Are there any plans for the productions after the London dates?
EM: I hope so. It would be great to take the shows to a wider audience, they’re both so different and the audience both young and old always seem to take something from them and enjoy them greatly. I know there’s been talk of taking ‘Macbeth’ abroad.

CM: Can we talk a bit about you now? Did you always want to perform?
EM: I wanted to do and be everything; a doctor; an astronaut; a dancer; an engineer. I suppose in being an actor I’ve fulfilled all of these?! Haha! But yes I’ve always loved acting and have always done so.

CM: What have been your career highlights thus far?
EM: I loved going to Neuss in Germany with ‘Romeo And Juliet’ and ‘Twelfth Night’. We did the shows as part of a Shakespeare festival and the audience was so responsive, it was just so much fun.

Filming ‘Get Luke Lowe’, a dark comedy, at the beginning of last year, was also class. I made great friends with a fellow actress, May Kelly, and the majority of the film was us improvising; we had such creative freedom which was a real privilege and I felt a real ownership and pride with the work we produced.

Playing Lady M with such a brilliant cast and creative team at Wilton’s is also definitely up there.

CM: What aims or ambitions do you have for the future?
EM: Terribly boring answer but I would love to do some more TV and film as I’ve done a lot of theatre recently and film is a medium I really love. Would also love to do more new writing, telling different stories centring on, and sharing with, a diverse audience. Love the Young Vic and what they stand for certainly wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to work there.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
EM: Your guess is as good as mine!

‘Macbeth’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ are on at at Wilton’s Music Hall from 22 Jan-15 Feb, see this page here for the former, and this page here for the latter.

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