Alan Cumming on ‘Macbeth’ and the Pressure of Theatre Audiences

Alan Cumming is many things: actor, singer, author, photographer, scented bath lotion entrepreneur, but he is. perhaps all else, a Scotsman.  He began his career on the stage in his native Scotland, and that is where he has returned to star in a production Macbeth for the National Theatre of Scotland. 

In an interview with the BBC, Cumming reveals what’s unique about this production in Macbeth: not only is it set in a mental hospital, but Cumming, as a patient, plays every role in the play (although there are side characters — the staff of the hospital — Cumming plays all of the Macbeth characters).  As such, the pressure is enormous, with Cumming pointing out that Glasgow is plastered with his face on Macbeth posters, saying, “It’s so funny because people say, ‘oh, you know, are you nervous?… do you feel the pressure?’ I go, ‘I live it, I walk out of my flat in Glasgow, I go in the subway, I go down the streets, my head is looming Big Brother like from every corner and every subway station.”

Adding to that pressure is the fact that Cumming sees a theatre audience as more challenging than any other.  He explains, “Being in television is very different from being in the movies or the theatre, because you come to them. And so people approach you in a less reverential way.  I’ll just leave it at that.”

Can’t make it to Scotland?  There’s good news — the production is set to move to New York, where Cumming lives most of the time these days, later in the year.

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