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The making of a Shakespearean actor

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ON A Saturday afternoon in February, a month before “Macbeth” was to open at the National Theatre in London, its artistic director, Rufus Norris, rehearsed alone with Rory Kinnear. Dressed in jeans and trainers, Mr Kinnear heaved a battlement across the studio. On Mr Norris’s cue, he became the thane, hand clutched to his pate in anguish, eyes aglow.

The session’s aim, said Mr Norris, was to find an approach to Shakespeare’s soliloquys that fitted the Olivier Theatre, the National’s biggest. For all the brawling and sorcery, at the play’s heart are the lulls in which Macbeth mulls the witches’ prophecies and the crimes they incite; in which he decides what kind of man he will be. These are intimate scenes, and finessing their gestures and tempo was intimate work, like a clinch between prizefighter and trainer. “It’s less literal,” Mr Norris said of the dagger that Macbeth hallucinates before killing Duncan, the old king. Grab higher, he told his star.

It helped that…Continue reading

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