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The Tragedy of Macbeth : Interview with Florence Rivero, director and actress

Image: www.sweetsorrowtheater.com

Author: Corinne Morey

The Tragedy of Macbeth directed by the talented Florence Rivero was presented during this year’s Fécule Festival and received high praises from students and other members of the Unil community. Despite her very tight schedule, Florence took the time to answer a few of our questions regarding her interpretation of this timeless play.

Dear Florence, you now have quite a few successful play directing experiences behind you and I am confident you have many more ahead. Could you tell us what was your main challenge for this play in particular?

For this adaptation of Macbeth, I decided to mostly focus on the internal and psychological struggle of the characters, avoiding any supernatural or mystical interpretations. A very significant challenge was how to show to the audience the psychological distress our characters are going through. How does one show a fragile mind, a psychological manipulation, psychopathological consequences, hastily made decisions from a broken mind and internal suffering? To do so, a lot of work was done acting-wise and with the relation towards the audience. However, the most important element was the adaptation of the original script. That is where it all started, the first step, where everything had to make sense so it could actually work later on stage. This is the first of four productions where I have done an unrestricted and careful adaptation of a Shakespearian play, focusing on what I personally wanted to highlight.

What do you wish to emphasise most in your version of Macbeth? What approach did you choose for this play?

My emphasis is on the psychological journey of the character of Macbeth. That is the reason why I kept the original title of the play in its entirety: The Tragedy of Macbeth. I really wanted to show this tragic character’s mental decline. I do not see a bloodthirsty man wanting power; I see a man who is destroyed by it, even during the process of acquiring it. I want the public to feel compassion for him or at least to relate to his tragic being. He is not an evil character; he is lost and mentally disturbed.

You are rather known in Unil for staging the lighter and more comic of Shakespeare’s plays. Was this a change for you or have you already had this kind of experience in the past?

Our choice to start doing comic plays four years ago was because the troupe and I thought they were easier to do and more accessible to the public (I question that now). However, after our first play, Much Ado About Nothing in 2012, my wish was to follow up with a tragedy, but I did not feel ready as a director. We then did A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2013 and I still did not feel ready after it. Nevertheless, I wanted to start experimenting, that is why I decided to direct A Winter’s Tale last year. It is a tragicomedy that presents a very serious and sad first half, followed by a comical second part. That experience really helped me to make the transition to a classic tragedy. I would still love to do more comedies, but I think I feel more comfortable doing tragedies. They inspire me greatly.

We guess you had your say in the selection of the cast, of course. Who plays the main character Macbeth and why did you choose this person?

Raphaël Meyer plays my main character. We met when he did the casting for A Midsummer Night’s Dream back in 2013, where he eventually played my character’s love interest. Raphaël and I have been together as a couple since then. In 2014, he played Camillo in A Winter’s Tale, a small character yet a motor for many of the actions and twists of the play. Raphaël transformed Camillo from a simple functional character to an endearing, complex and multidimensional one. I was so impressed by his work that when I decided to do Macbeth, I thought he would be perfect for the role. Sadly, he didn’t want to audition for it since he felt incapable of portraying such a big and intense character. It actually took me months to convince him and to reassure him that he did have the talent and acting potential to do it. He did finally audition and got the role by a unanimous decision of our four-member jury. I’m very lucky to have him as Macbeth, although I cannot lie, it is a difficult challenge to direct your significant other. Fortunately it worked out great at the end, for both the play and for our relationship!

Blood is a very important symbol in this tragedy; will there be blood for all our gory/gothic lovers?

Blood is extremely important in this play! For me, its physical presence is fundamental. However, it is very important not to overuse it. Shakespeare mentions the presence of blood in several scenes and in my opinion, those should be the only times where it must be shown on stage. Blood represents the tangible reality. It should be there to remind both the characters and the public of the consequences of their actions. So to answer your question, yes, there will be blood.

Your choice of character for yourself also changes from what your public is used to. You play the witch who prophesizes many, if not all, of the events of the play. What made you choose this character and what do you like most about playing the witch?

As most of you may know, the witches in Macbeth are originally three sisters. In this adaptation, I decided to portray them as only one character: a mentality disabled beggar. I like the fact that she is a real person, suffering from real psychopathologies. Her prophecies can then be interpreted as merely coincidences, or maybe as psychological influences on Macbeth’s decisions and actions, and not as a mystical force. As an actress, playing this character has been very demanding. It is both a very physical and mental character and it demands a lot of energy. I’m usually exhausted after one scene, but it has been a very enjoyable experience.

If you did not get the chance to see Florence Rivero’s version of The Tragedy of Macbeth, it will be played three more times on the 29th, 30th and 31st of May at the Centre Pluriculturel et social d’Ouchy (CPO)! For more information please visit the Sweet Sorrow Theater Group’s website at www.sweetsorrowtheater.com!