The director Jude Kelly recently said a theatre should be "a dangerous place as regards its content and an utterly benign one as regards its atmosphere". If that is the case, a Scots theatre company could be tempting fate with its next production – a performance of Macbeth at the Thane of Cawdor's own castle.
Tomorrow, for the first time, Shakespeare's play about ambition, regicide and guilt will be performed in the place where the playwright said it happened. Only a Shakespearean fool would be perverse enough to suggest that the venue may lack atmosphere.
The production is being put on by Cutting Edge Theatre from Edinburgh, to the delight of the present-day 25th Thane of Cawdor. Lord Cawdor, 39, said: "I've seen plenty of performances of Macbeth, but obviously none here. It'll be an interesting experience. I don't quite know what I'll think or feel."
The idea for the performance came to Suzanne Loftus, Cutting Edge's producer, as she was out driving one day and went past the castle, near Nairn in the Highlands. She dropped in and asked whether she could put on the play there. Within 15 minutes, she had been given permission.
Angelika, Dowager Countess of Cawdor, the stepmother of the present 7th Earl, said: "I'm delighted. There is no record of the play ever being performed here, although Sir Henry Irving and Dame Ellen Terry are known to have stayed at the castle to absorb the atmosphere for their own performances."
The Thanes of Cawdor (originally Calder) were local chieftains. The real Macbeth, Thane of Cawdor, became King of Scotland after the death of Duncan I but was killed at Lumphanan in what is now Aberdeenshire and buried on the island of Iona.
Shakespeare's version, which was inaccurate, was based on the work of the 16th- century English historian Raphael Hollinshead. In turn, Hollinshead borrowed from previous fanciful accounts of Macbeth dreaming of three sisters – the witches in the play – who murmured about his destiny. Banquo, famous for his feast, was the invention of another historian.
So the performance should not conjure up any tortured spirits that might be residing at the castle, because the action never happened there. The real Macbeth was killed in 1057, but the present castle was not built until 1454. King Duncan lost no blood here and Lady Macbeth no sleep.Reuse content