It is a conundrum for any actor playing Lady Macbeth. Things start off the way you would expect in Shakespeare’s tragedy as she greets her husband on his return from battle. He has a glimmer of ambition in his eyes after hearing a prophesy and she encourages him to think big. In their joint bid for power, he is initially destabilised by his killing spree. She stands by him and provides the support he needs not to go off the rails.
But then something odd happens. Lady Macbeth disappears from the play. When she returns, she is no longer the resolute character we remember but someone showing signs of severe mental distress. This previously formidable woman is now washing invisible blood off her hands. For an actor, it is quite a psychological leap. Why does she buckle under pressure when, only a few scenes earlier, she had been covering for her husband as he fought off visions of daggers and ghosts?
“I wonder what happened to Shakespeare that he bottled it,” says Nicole Cooper as she prepares to play Lady Macbeth at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum. “It makes sense for Macbeth to carry on down the track of being haunted by his act of violence, so much so that he can’t sleep and he’s starting to go delirious. But Shakespeare switched it around and made it her and not him who has a breakdown.” [READ MORE]