Auroville Theatre Group to stage William Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Indulge spoke to the artistic director of the theatre group, Jill Navarre, to learn more about the production
Auroville Theatre Group to stage William Shakespeare’s Macbeth

The Auroville Theatre Group is gearing up to add yet another feather to its cap with its upcoming outing, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, one of the greatest tragedies penned by the English playwright, which will be staged this weekend. Indulge caught up with Jill Navarre, the artistic director of the theatre group, to learn more about the latest production. Excerpts.

What made you choose Macbeth?
Macbeth reflects back to us the enormous tragedy experienced by countries that live under ruthless dictatorships. The play lets us see how the dictator himself suffers. It’s not just family and close friends who pay the price for loving; it's the perpetrator as well. They are caught in a vicious cycle of triumph and defeat, normalcy and paranoia, and calm and dangerous outbursts of irrational and ultimately self-destructive behaviour. The one who needs to feel powerful, at the expense of others, is ultimately the one who loses everything and is left powerless. This can happen in communities, politics, families, schools, or anywhere where there is a strict hierarchy that excludes consensus-building and disallows empathy.

Will you be focusing on a particular part of the story? 
The relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is fascinating. This strong bond of shared triumph, guilt, joy, and horror between the husband and wife in the story stands out. The downward spiraling of their partnership and the ruin that befalls them are horrible and spellbinding to watch. 

Have you adapted the play, which is set in medieval Scotland, to suit the contemporary audience?
The original setting of the play in medieval Scotland is perfect for the story, so why change it? I have adapted, when necessary, other Shakespeare plays, like Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear, both of which were set in the present (Macbeth is number 8 on my performed Shakespeare list). But the wildness and raw beauty of Scotland serve as a perfect backdrop for the story, so I felt there was no need to update or change it.

What will be the highlight of the play?
The arc of the story hits a climax with the sword fight between Macduff and Macbeth. But there are other moments as well that stand out for me: the witches dancing around the cauldron, when Macbeth hears from the witches that he will be King, Lady Macbeth reading the letter, Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene, and Macduff receiving the sad news about the death of his family. This is dramatic writing at its best. For me, there is no greater poet of the theatre in the English language than William Shakespeare! His characters are always human—so terribly, tragically, triumphantly human!

How challenging was preparing for a great piece of literature like Macbeth?
Since I have directed seven other Shakespeare plays, I had the confidence that comes with experience, and I was actually looking forward to taking the plunge. I am addicted to his gorgeous writing that reaches back centuries, and hits us right in the heart. It is a pleasure and a privilege to direct a Shakespeare play. 

Are contemporary audiences able to connect with literature from the days of yore?
Absolutely!  Our feedback from the audience depends on their comfort with the English language. For some, the language is a barrier. For others, they can be touched deeply, and it doesn't depend on language, but rather how well we have found the best actions to accompany the text. It is not so important to understand every word. It is incredibly satisfying and moving to feel the pain and sorrow, the joy and blessings that the story offers through the actions, the music ( we have original music written by Hartmut von Lieres and Samagr Sakshi), the beautiful set design, and the costumes. All these elements offer you a chance to step into another world that Shakespeare has created with his unique genius. It is a gift to play these stories and share them with the audience.

What's the next production from Auroville Theatre Group?
What's next? A break over April and May. Recovering from the seven months I have spent with Macbeth. Then, working on a one person play, which I wrote called Shakespeare's Sons. It is about why and how the Bard has written so eloquently and movingly about the relationship between sons and fathers, like in Hamlet, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, and what could have been his relationship with his own father. It will be performed by Umair Ahrar, a wonderful actor and frequent collaborator with the Auroville Theatre Group ( Equus, Red Bike, The Elephant Man, A Streetcar Named Desire, and A Midsummer Night's Dream).

March  22 to 24, 7.30 pm.
At Auroville

You can contact the writer over email at and follow her on Twitter @psangeetha2112

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