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Comedian Stewart Lee to rewrite the Porter scene in RSC's Macbeth

Stewart Lee. Photo courtesy of Steve Ullathorne.

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) have announced that comedian and screenwriter Stewart Lee will rewrite a contemporary version of the Porter scene, featuring Alison Peebles as the Porter, in Wils Wilson’s upcoming production of Shakespeare’s gripping and brutal tragedy, Macbeth.

Stewart Lee said: “I am delighted to have been asked by Wils Wilson to rewrite the rubbish Porter scene from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which is in dire need of a post-alternative comedy makeover. Alison Peebles is an inspired piece of casting sure to bring the requisite level of attack. At the moment the scene is 2 hours long but hopefully will expand in rehearsal.”

Alison Peebles.

Wils Wilson, director, said: “It felt incredibly important that the scene should be dark and funny, satirical and edgy, as it would have been originally. I really think comedy connects us directly, it gets through our defences and cuts through everything to the heart. I wanted to recapture the spirit and function of the original scene, to give the audience the same kind of experience that they would have had in 1606 - to find themselves suddenly laughing, to find themselves personally involved and implicated in a completely different and very direct way with the core ideas of the play - guilt, hypocrisy, greed.

“The Porter is dark, funny, edgy, political, clever, a truth teller - Stewart is all of these things, straight away I knew I wanted to ask him to write it. He’s a brilliant comic writer, absolutely rigorous in pursuit of the right line or word or rhythm. It’s been such a pleasure to work with him on it. Stewart has a really deep understanding of how comedy works, and the way he pushes and pulls the relationship with the audience, playing with different levels of reality, it's a perfect fit. The Porter scene is a strange meta moment in Macbeth and I knew Stewart would enjoy playing with that. There’s a very creative level of discomfort about Stewart’s writing, which is perfect for this moment.

Valene Kane and Rueben Joseph as Lady Macbeth and Macbeth.

“Alison Peebles was the first person I asked to be in this production. She’s a wonderful actor, one of Scotland’s finest, she has such a commanding presence, and she loves that direct relationship with an audience. She’s full of mischief and there’s also darkness and depth there as well as real humanity. I also like the fact she is an older woman joking about drinking and sex and misbehaving. Even now that’s an unusual thing to see, it gives a different dynamic, a different edge, a new way in.”

The production, which features Reuben Joseph and Valene Kane as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respectively alongside Alison Peebles as the Porter, opens in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from Saturday 19 August – Saturday 14 October 2023, with Press Night on Wednesday 30 August at 7pm.


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