Rebecca Hall on Her Role in Broadway’s ‘Machinal’: “I keep myself as loose and empty as possible and then just let the rest of the company slowly pummel me”


Rebecca Hall might be making her Broadway debut in Machinal, but the Iron Man 3 star has plenty of acting credits in her native England. However, Hall makes it clear in an interview with that she would have done this play anywhere. In Machinal she portrays a housewife who is paralyzed by depression regarding her lot in life. Though the play was written by Sophie Treadwell over eighty years ago, Hall speaks about the modern complexity of the role and how she “comes down” from her intense performance.

Hall confesses that she didn’t so much plan to make her Broadway debut as she planned to star in Machinal. She explains, “It was a combination of things. I wasn’t looking to do a show on Broadway—that wasn’t the starting point. But this play arrived and I would’ve done it anywhere, and that it happened to be being produced on Broadway was a bonus.”

One of the things that drew her to the play was her part. About her character, she says, “As bizarre as it sounds, a lot of the play happens to her. It would have been wrong for me to say, ‘OK, she’s got depression, so I’m just gonna play somebody with extreme anxiety and depression, and that’s it.’ I think Treadwell has written someone who’s delicate and someone who lacks the imagination of a hero at the center of a drama. She’s not necessarily someone who is always going to commit a murder. She’s an ordinary woman who gets affected by this situation that she’s in. So I keep myself as loose and empty as possible and then just let the rest of the company slowly pummel me with a meat tenderizer, as it were. [Laughs.]”

On how she manages to handle that brutality physically, she adds, “A lot of times [in theater], you come off really excited and full of adrenaline, and that’s often the indicator that it’s gone well. But this one is completely the other way around. If I come offstage like that, I know I haven’t been doing my job properly. If I come offstage subdued and I want to go and sit quietly by myself and stare at a wall, then I know that it’s gone well. [Laughs.] So I usually sit quietly for a little bit and then go get a drink.”

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