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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Henry Maynard – Q&A

After a critically acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Festival where everyone from The Telegraph to Stewart Lee praised the production in glowing terms, award-winning Flabbergast Theatre are just about to start a four-week run of their highly critically acclaimed The Tragedy of Macbeth to Southwark playhouse for a four-week run.

In this classic tale of greed and guilt, Flabbergast's Macbeth fuses a rigorous and respectful approach to text and storytelling to bring a magical, lucid interpretation of Shakespeare's blood-soaked tragedy to life.

Hinton Magazine had a chat with Artistic Director of the company, Henry Maynard, who also plays Macbeth in the new production.

What’s the elevator pitch for Flabbergast’s Macbeth?

Mad, mud-soaked nightmare, ‘as captivating as it is unsettling.’ And probably the best Macbeth you will have ever seen.

What do you find most rewarding on stage as a performer, and off stage as a director?

I love acting and I continue to perform as an actor outside my work as the Artistic Director of Flabbergast. I am currently performing in ‘Harry Potter and The Cursed Child’, have played the main antagonist in the multi-million-pound Bollywood Epic ‘Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy’ and played the head of Topthorn in The National Theatre’s ‘War Horse’, to name a few.

I love improvising and developing work, especially with generous and flexible actors. There is nothing better than working together as a team in a brilliant ensemble. It is quite a rare experience.

Setting up Flabbergast grew out of my desire to exert more creative control over the performances that I was in, and to create a true ensemble dedicated to the creative growth of its members.

I delight in set and poster design, prop making, and cooking for the company. We have become a family because of the way we work, which makes the residencies that we do one of the most magical experiences that I have ever taken part in during my career.

What or who inspires you creatively?

I am quite a visual person and am inspired by aesthetics, both beautiful and grim. I love faded decadence and decay.

I have always been excited and inspired by Avant Garde theatre, European theatre arts, Butoh, clown and mask work I’m a habitual collector of different theatrical styles and love chaos and mischief.

I am constantly pushed and inspired by my fellow collaborators in Flabbergast.

You’ve performed at the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House and the Globe – is this your first time at the Southwark Playhouse?

This is indeed our first run at Southwark playhouse. We are very excited to bring our Macbeth here for a full four-week run, it’s been in development for such a long time, in part because of Covid and in part because we like to develop work over a longer period, doing residencies and research and developments.

You and your team absolutely smashed it at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, are you excited to be bringing the show to a London audience? How do the two differ?

We are ecstatic to finally be in London for a significant run after such a long development. I think in both Edinburgh and London there is a huge amount of competition.

Edinburgh Fringe being a short event with cheap(er) tickets encourages risk taking with regard to what shows you see - if something isn’t as good as you thought it would be, it’s fine because you are seeing a couple of other things that day.

In London, you must reach a level of performance that can compete with West End and off West End productions. This show has proven itself in the crucible of Edinburgh and I think it will surprise audiences in the same way here that it did there.

How tough is the show physically for the performers?

It is a push and certainly longer runs do exact a toll both physically and vocally. There is no space to ‘phone it in’ but everyone is fit and does a great deal of work outside of performance to maintain their ability to perform.

Why did you decide to use a mixture of puppetry, clowning, masks and music rather than performing in the traditional Shakespeare style?

We wanted to experiment with how well our historical use of those artforms and devising might work with Shakespeare. We were delighted to find that they helped to make the storytelling more concise and encouraged theatricality. I think sometimes we mis-conflate the ‘traditional’ style with a contemporary performance styles and tastes, often naturalistic or psychological approaches to performing Shakespearian texts are inappropriate and can work against the storytelling.

There’s a theme of the masculine fear of feminine power within the play – do you think this echoes what’s happening around the world today?

The fear of feminine power is a construct of our society and not one that I believe is innate to human interaction. Whilst men as a ‘general rule’ have more physical strength and can dominate the physical world, women (again, generally) have relied on psychological techniques to achieve their aims. This is fearsome because it is far more subtle; one can see how big your contemporaries and enemies are but not necessarily know how clever they can be.

Lady Macbeth manipulates and convinces Macbeth with her words to get what she wants and by doing so, unleashes a monster that she cannot control in the physical realm.

Witchcraft and spells are about affecting the physical world through metaphysical means. It wasn’t a far leap for a man (with questionable morals) afraid of losing his status in a patriarchal society to resort to accusations of witchcraft. The witch-hunts became a convenient way to murder innocent ‘trouble makers’ and subdue the remaining female population with terror.

All that said, and to come back to your original question, whist I think there will always be friction between people who want different things (regardless of gender), as toxic masculinity becomes less permissible, gender identities begin to be recognised as not entirely binary, and physical dominance becomes less important, we can hope that the insecurities that men have about their tentative grip on power will become irrelevant.

New archaeological discoveries have confirmed the long-suspected idea that our feminine ancestors were powerful hunters and warriors, and it is accepted that women in Viking (and many other) communities were lauded and respected rather than supressed. Let us hope that this persecution was a blip in our history and that the fear, which often comes from insecurity, becomes an irrelevance.

What’s your opinion on not saying the name ‘Macbeth’ in a theatre? Apparently, it’s bad luck?

Apparently so. There are many stories as to the origins of that superstition. One that I like the most is that if your current play was failing you could put on Macbeth as it would undoubtedly sell but one should keep it under wraps in case no one wanted to see the other play you were attempting to present.

What’s next in line for Flabbergast team? Is a tour of Macbeth in the pipeline?

A tour is certainly on the cards and we will be performing Macbeth at Nottingham Playhouse soon as well as in Gdansk Poland, Craiova Romany, and Neuss in Germany.

We have a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which will play in Ludlow Castle and Winchester Royal Theatre this summer and Wilton’s Music Hall next year. And we are considering a number of other projects, including Beowulf.

Where can we find more information on Macbeth and Flabbergast’s future projects?

Flabbergast's THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH comes to Southwark Playhouse Borough from 14 March - 8 April 2023. To book, visit