William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is considered one of his more challenging and complicated plays to perform. So for one actor to play all of the characters in a solo production seems almost impossible.

But that’s precisely what English actor Stephen Dillane does, and Sydney audiences are about to get a taste.

Dillane, best known to Australian audiences for playing Leonard Woolf to Nicole Kidman’s Virginia Woolf in The Hours, wasn’t quite sure about the production when American director Travis Prestonapproached him to take on the daunting task.

It was very difficult to see how it could be done, Dillane told Sydney Star Observer.

And he [Preston] didn’t have any idea either. It was just a hunch that he had. And I must admit, when he mentioned it I was very sympathetic to the idea. I thought it had merit.

Both Dillane and Preston felt the play was better when read than when they had seen it done in production, which was part of their motivation to do the one-man version. In their Macbeth the characters merge and aren’t always defined.

When you read it I don’t think you concern yourself very much with characters. The thing that drives the piece isn’t necessarily something to do with the personalities involved. So I think that when I do the performance the characters aren’t something which are particularly defined or delineated from each other, Dillane explained.

So far the actor has taken the production to LA and London for about 15 performances in each city. He’s doing 11 in Sydney. They’re short runs because it’s exhausting work, both physically and emotionally, with all of Dillane’s time and energy focused on the task.

I prepare myself for the entire time that I’m doing the show. There’s not really any room for anything else other than the two hours on stage. So I prepare myself all day by not really doing anything else. I just sleep and eat basically.

After Macbeth travels around Australia the production is in talks to go to Paris and back to the States. So obviously he’s not too tired of it yet.

Not at all. I wouldn’t get bored with this for 20 years, Dillane said. It’s fascinating.

Macbeth runs from 15 February to 1 March at the Sydney Theatre. Book on 9250 1999 or at the Sydney Theatre Company website.

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