Macbeth takes to Zoom with south London actor part of the virtual cast

A virtual and immersive version of Macbeth is being performed on Zoom this October, as theatre companies continue to find new ways to perform amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

The Big Telly Theatre Company production, starring south London’s Dennis Herdman as the titular character, will be available online through Creation Theatre, following shows this week at the Belfast International Arts Festival.

And Herdman is excited to explore a new medium of theatre, that aims to use the fact that Macbeth is on Zoom, rather than in a theatre, as an opportunity rather than a disadvantage.

He said: “It’s been a really rich and a really strange process. It’s a weird old thing we’re doing. We’re not treating it like it’s a stage show and we’re also not trying to make it like a TV show. It’s very much its own beast and we’re learning as we go as to how to approach it.

“It’s very technically challenging and you have to get to grips with Zoom. It’s actually very intricate and you have to be very deft and careful with what you’re creating because everything is in miniature.

“You’re creating a world that not only has to feel authentic but also feels like it’s the same world that everyone else is acting in.

“But the company have been so enthusiastic and so helpful, especially when it comes to Zoom. It’s been a very quick process for us, it’s taken place over a month but we’ve only had a couple of weeks’ worth of rehearsals. So in a way you can’t think about it too much, you just have to get stuck in.

“We’re off and running now and we’ve really got into the swing of it. We’re always tweaking performances as we go but we’re happy with where it’s at and it feels like we’ve hit our stride.

“To play Macbeth is absolutely fantastic. I’ve played a lot of villains over the last decade or so, but at the same time, this is Macbeth. This is a major Shakespeare role.

“You have to kind of find it within yourself and find what feels right. You almost can’t try too hard to be acting, you can’t go reaching for it.”

Herdman, whose previous credits include Hook in Peter Pan and Inspector Fix in Around the World in 80 Days has been operating out of a friend’s studio, with the entire project running remotely, and actors from across the UK and Ireland zooming from their own locations.

And he expressed his gratitude for the ability to work and have a space to work in, at a time when the theatre industry is hit hard by coronavirus.

The project is directed and adapted by the company’s founder Zoe Seaton, who has already tackled four successful lockdown productions, including critically acclaimed The Tempest – Live.

She added: “The show is going to be loaded with technology aimed at playing tricks on the mind, eyes and ears of the spectator. I want them to feel privy to every dilemma and dark corner of this classic text.

“We also want to be playful and have fun with the characteristics of digital theatre and the unpredictability of the internet. We want to be constantly shifting between the dark and the light, between horror and comedy.”

Macbeth runs on Zoom at Belfast International Arts Festival from 14 to 17 October, with tickets available here and then through Creation Theatre from 21 to 31 October, with tickets available here.

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