This is My Theatre take Macbeth to Sussex churches

Sarah Slator
Sarah Slator

“Something wicked this way comes” as Upper Beeding-based rural touring company This is My Theatre bring Shakespeare’s Macbeth to audiences in the south-east’s most ancient and historic churches.

Venues include Selsey, Tortington and Steyning – plus an open-air theatre date in Crawley.

Artistic director Sarah Slator set the company up last year – and is delighted at its rapid expansion, thanks to a close association with the Churches Conservation Trust which opens up some fantastic churches to perform in.

“This is our biggest tour by quite a long way really. We’re in Essex, Kent, Sussex and Surrey which is slightly daunting and exciting all rolled into one!

“We are revisiting churches we went to last year, and working with the Conservation Trust we have expanded it. What makes it challenging is the fact that the show itself has to be quite flexible and quite versatile. You can’t have anything that is too rigid because every church is different; every performing space is different. You have entrances in different places, all of which means you are never seeing the same show twice. Obviously, the core and the content are the same, but it changes too with the different atmospheres of the different places.

“Using the play’s original language in combination with traditional Celtic music played live, choral song and modern characterisation, this one-act adaptation will captivate audiences of all ages.

“This is my adaptation. I love taking something that people know or think they know and doing something a bit different with it. The churches really lend themselves to this particular play. For this one, we have got a reduced cast. There are five actors that play the characters, and a few of the characters have been cut from the original or the roles have been amalgamated. And we have got three males playing the witches. Everyone has to be very versatile.

“For me, what makes the play interesting is the manipulation of Macbeth. My through-line is very much that he is influenced by others. His destiny is already written at the start of the play. He is forced to go through particular steps to reach it. His fate is destined from the start. He is influenced by others.”

So does that make him a victim?

“I think there is quite a lot about him as a character that is likeable. He is seen as being not very nice and gets what he deserves, but I think there is actually something quite sad about him. And hopefully Lady Macbeth as well. Even with her, it all has to stem from something. She eventually takes her own life so there has to be an element or remorse.

“People go along with certain expectations of Shakespeare, and they think they will see the characters they think they know. But I like the audiences to feel connected with the characters. If it was too harsh, it would be too jarring. If you were watching someone who was pure evil, it would be very difficult to engage with what they were doing…

“Shakespeare’s characters and plots are so rich that there is an endless supply of inspiration for me as a director. Every venue is different which means the show has to be flexible to work in different spaces-including those without electricity! That’s one of the reasons why I always use live musicians – that and the fact that I love the energy and life they bring to a show. Simon Stallard, who also performs with the company, has selected the most beautiful traditional Celtic music that will be sung and played by the cast of five.”

Performances are:

July 21: St Botolph’s Church, Steyning, 7.30pm.

July 22: The Hawth Theatre, Crawley, 7pm (open-air performance).

July 23: St Wilfrid’s Chapel, Church Norton, Selsey, 3pm & 7pm.

July 27: Church of St Mary Magdalene, Tortington, Arundel, 7.30pm.

Tickets: www.thisismytheatre.com; email: thisismytheatre@gmail.com.

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