Whether you refer to it by name or subscribe to the superstition of only calling it “The Scottish Play,'' the current revival of Macbeth — starring Patrick Stewart in the title role — has leapfrogged across the pond from the UK to New York City, from its first iteration in the Minerva Theatre at the Chichester Festival to the Brooklyn Academy of Music and now at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway, where it runs through late May.
LD Howard Harrison, who won the 2008 Olivier Award for Best Lighting Design for his work on Macbeth, says the rig did not change much as the production evolved. “The basics of the rig were originally dictated by the constraints of the original theatre being a studio theatre with a thrust stage. More than changing, it has adapted for the venues that it has played thereafter,” he explains, pointing out that the season light plot in the Minerva had eight Vari-Lite VL1000s in the rig, and Macbeth had to originally play in repertoire with other shows.
“I added nine High End Systems Studio Colors to the basic rig, as this was the only moving light with a discharge source that we could afford. This grew in the West End and on Broadway to 12 Studio Colors. The VL1000s have now been joined by two Martin Professional MAC 700 Spots,” Harrison continues. “The Studio Colors are used primarily as stark backlight specials with faces being lit by a large amount of cross light from [ETC] Source Four profiles with color scrollers.”
Harrison did not use a lot of different colors — primarily Lee L201, L202, and L161. “I think the darkest color used is [Roscolux] R81,” he says. “The palette is subdued as would befit a play about murder, torture, and the supernatural. But the production is not dark; in many ways, it is quite shockingly bright, but in a stark and sinister way, there are a lot of shadows and severe shafts of light.”
The console in all three venues has been a Strand 520i, which was programmed in Chichester and London by Victoria Brennan and at BAM and on Broadway by Marc Polimeni. On the sound side, designer Adam Cork created his system using SFX, with a Yamaha DM1000 console and Meyer UPA1P loudspeakers amid the gear supplied by Sound Associates.
This contemporary take on The Scottish Play has been described as everything from a “subterranean kitchen that serves as a military hospital in a timeless and nameless country” to an abattoir and torture chamber. “It is all of these things and more,” Harrison agrees. “The production is set around the 1940s/1950s and has a very cold war eastern European feel to it.”
Production design for Macbeth is by Anthony Ward, with video by Lorna Heavey and images ranging from Soviet-era parades to the specter of Banquo's ghost. “The projections,” notes Harrison, “are like the rest of the production, full of stark and quite shocking images that serve brilliantly to unsettle the audience and set the supernatural ambience of the play. They are very much in keeping with the style of the production and feel very integrated into the show. This really was one of those productions when the set, lighting, sound, and projection all work — really closely with one another and all support each other.”