Macbeth’s Tragedy: How Hunter Kathryn Goes From Crone to Crow

Shakespeare fans are in for a miracle as all three witches in Joel Coen’s Idle adaptation, in an award-deserving physical performance.

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She played Cleopatra, Lady M, King Lear – and his moron. She finished Puck with Julie Taymor and Beckett with Peter Brook. She directed “Othello” for the Royal Shakespeare Company, adapted Kafka for the stage, and won an Olivier Award for Durrenmatt’s “The Visit.” But there’s one thing Hunter Kathryn never did is play all three of Macbeth’s witches, let alone tried for her decades in classical theatre. British-American actress, director, and physical theater creator who excelled in her unique role in “Macbeth’s Tragedy, “Joel Coen molting, black and white tells of Shakespearean tragedy.

In just a few scenes, Hunter adjusts her expressive body in unreal ways, rattling her voice into countless timbres and registers, and handling text like a true master. It’s a stunning performance that easily captures all attention, (yes, even from Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand), the kind of performance rarely seen on screen that certainly deserves an award.

Hunter’s performance feels rare not only because of her looks, sounds, and movements, but also because of the enormous partnership in the process. For a director as talented as Coen, who would easily fall for the signature style, it’s refreshing to see how working with Hunter has inspired him. While Coen’s direction will almost certainly be recognized by Academy voters (he’s been nominated for best director most of the years he’s had a film), Hunter well deserved some glory.

“It was a great way to work with the director, instead of just being given a costume and going that day and saying your lines,” she said. “It was a pleasure working with Joel. It was completely new territory for him. Completely anonymous. And he was excited and exploratory at the same time. ”

As a longtime fan of Coen’s movies, Hunter was naturally delighted when she received an email asking her to play the witch. Her enthusiasm was quickly snuffed out by the unusual twist of the play.

“I was on the moon,” Hunter said. “I immediately said yes, and then said, ‘All three?’ And Joel said, ‘Yes.’ ‘And how are we going to do that?’ So he said, “Well, we’ll figure it out.”

They started rehearsing and trying out different interpretations, like a theatrical interpretation. They came up with the idea of ​​doubling down, dealing with character role-playing as a witch with a shape-shifting identity, as if she were possessed. Traditionally, there are three witches in “Macbeth,” and the film sometimes features three characters, even though they are all Hunters.

“Sometimes we see three, because three is a magic number,” said the actress. “We agreed that we didn’t want to do witches with sharp, sly, inquisitive voices. But Joel, because he has an extraordinary imagination, very quickly came up with a completely different starting point. He said, ‘I think they’re crows. They are like crows. And sometimes they are like standing stones. And sometimes they are women. ‘ So his imagination immediately led me down a very rich path to discovery.”

Kathryn Hunter The Tragedy of Macbeth

Hunter Kathryn

Courtesy of the artist

Although Hunter has played Lady M before, the film is in a three-week rush in production. In an unusual reversal, working on the film actually spent more time perusing the text than she had previously experienced.

“Frances [McDormand] and Joel feel so passionate that they want both of them to have time to explore the language and bring the company together,” she said. “As actors, we are all completely different, coming from different backgrounds. But somehow, it’s like a cohesive world that Joel has created. Helped, of course, by the film’s black-and-white idiom. ”

At a quick 105 minutes, Coen clearly made some changes to Shakespeare’s five-act structure, even though “Macbeth” is Bard’s shortest tragedy. The most important change affecting Hunter’s part is the implementation of the famous opening line – “When will the three of us meet again?” – like dubbing.

“I had a split second thinking, ‘Oh, that’s one less scene for me.’ But I immediately realized that hearing them speak cinematically is so much more powerful,” says Hunter. “There needs to be more economics in a movie. And Joel did it all the time. He was deprived back. Instead of throwing out a lot of visual cues, he’s stripped it and it’s pretty obvious. It’s about atmospheres, shapes, and lights, letting us dive into Macbeth and his soul and inner journey. “

Shakespeare wrote the play during the reign of James I, who had an obsession with witches. So, according to Hunter, he included “a lot of cauldrons and witchcraft beers, because it was so popular at the time.”

“Joel has a toned look,” she said. “Particularly the so-called cauldron scene. He has witches on the rafters, instead of circling a cauldron, which I think is great. We have seen enough cauldrons.”

Birds feature a lot in the film’s visuals, including the foreshadowing black V-shape piercing the gray sky. Coen noticed many mentions of birds in the text, Hunter said.

“Crows are famous for being harbingers of death. But they are also pretty mysterious creatures,” says Hunter. “Of course, I did a lot of research on crows, and they are also one of the most intelligent birds. And so they have knowledge, they can see into the germ of time. It seems coherent with the text.

In the cauldron scene, Hunter appears as three figures on the rafters above Macbeth’s head, looking down at the camera. It’s an impressive framing device that acts like the character’s crow and is part of what makes Hunter’s performance so unforgettable.

“I didn’t play the crow, but it was as if it were a woman who lived on a battlefield, witnessed many deaths and witnessed crows scavenging and somehow absorbing the carcass of a crow. ,” she said. “In the same way that children raised by wolves also begin to run like wolves.”

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Olly Dawes

Olly Dawes is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Olly Dawes joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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