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Samantha Spiro at Shakespeare’s Globe

13 June 2013 | Charlie Kenber

Ahead of her latest production at Shakespeare's Globe Charlie Kenber catches up with actress - and winner of two Olivier Awards - Samantha Spiro…

Samantha Spiro has made a name for herself as a major actress of note. Having performed at the best theatres across the UK, as well as on both the small and big screen, there are plenty of opportunities to catch her in action. With a number of projects in the pipeline, she is as busy as always.

Opening on June 22nd, Samantha’s latest role is as Lady Macbeth in a production at Shakespeare’s Globe. Perhaps one of the most challenging female roles in Shakespeare’s canon, Lady Macbeth’s transformation throughout the play is remarkable, and the complexity required in her portrayal is substantial. For Samantha, the key to finding her has lain in her back story: “We’ve decided that they [Macbeth and Lady Macbeth] were quite a golden couple, but had a child that died a few weeks after birth. She’s suffered post-natal depression and had evil thoughts towards the child, and then lost it. That’s left her with a great cavern in her life.”

It is this experience that Samantha and her opposite number, played by Joseph Millson, use to define her actions throughout the play. “You don’t have to work out the reasons for her to perform this absolutely dreadful thing of killing Duncan: it’s about this need,” she tells us. “She needs to make Macbeth happy, needs this for the relationship. She’s a desperate woman.” It is then from this point that Lady Macbeth’s downfall begins. “She thinks after the death of Duncan it will solve all of their problems, but they start to go off on a tangent. They go down different avenues from each other; she’s clinging on to trying to keep Macbeth sane, but loses her own sanity.”

Although for many actresses Lady Macbeth is a role always at the back of their mind, Samantha would only have considered it recently. “Funnily enough its only over the last eighteen months that I have started to think about it,” she explains. “Before that I had a twenty year gap of it not being on my radar at all: I would have been quite scared! I didn’t think it’d be a part of my repertoire at all, but an old friend reminded me that when I was nine I used to read speeches to her in my bedroom. So between the ages of nine and forty-four I was scared of it, but I’m really delighted to be playing it now. I don’t think I’d have been ready in my twenties or thirties.”

The actress Eve Best, who has previously played Lady Macbeth at the Globe herself, directs the play, and this has proved a wholly positive experience for Samantha. “All credit to her: even though she’s done it before it feels as though we’re on a voyage of discovery together. She’s so alive and inspiring, there are no negatives about her having performed the role.”

Working at Shakespeare’s Globe also seems to suit her, and she clearly enjoyed her experience there last year in Taming of the Shrew. “It’s wonderful to be able to use the audience so much – what’s really interesting is finding the moments you invite them in on your journey. It feels right to be performing Shakespeare here” she affirms. “It’s the place the plays were clearly written for.”

Evidently, Shakespeare makes a frequent appearance in Samantha’s work. Listing her roles in his comedies, she covers an impressive range, from Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, and Maria in Twelfth Night to Titania and Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This however will be her first large role in a tragedy, and she is excited at the chance to tackle such a meaty part. “It’s obviously a very dark play. I’m going in rehearsals to places I haven’t visited in some of my other roles, so emotionally it’s quite draining, but also thrilling.”

Her career itself covers a whole range of roles and forms: she has done television and film as well as theatre, and recently gained some fame (not to mention an award) for her work on Grandma’s House, Simon Amstell’s sitcom. “It’s fantastic having the mix of it,” she says. “I always think at the end of one job, what in an ideal world would I most like to do now, and normally it is something completely different.”

Her two Olivier Awards are indeed both for musical theatre, but she hasn’t done one for a number of years now. “It always feels a bit random when something comes up. I’d very much like to do another if the right one comes along.” For the moment though, she’s content just enjoying her current work. “I’m looking forward to a lovely summer in London: there’s plenty of time off as well which is amazing because it’s in rep. I get to be with the family.”

So what next? With some theatre in the pipeline, Samantha is always on the look out for the next exciting project. “I always think of it in terms of how many boxes you can tick. Obviously very few jobs will tick all of them: a great script, a director and producers you want to work with, with theatre the venue, it fitting in with the family…and did I say the part? That’s quite important as well!” she laughs. “If you can tick four out of five of them then you’re jumping for joy.”

With such a positive, can-do attitude Samantha thoroughly deserves all the success she has had so far, and looks set to continue exploring some truly fantastic roles. For the time being, this latest revival of one of Shakespeare’s greatest works is sure to be a moving and unmissable experience.

Macbeth runs at Shakespeare's Globe from 22nd June until 13th October. Tickets available here.

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