The four-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan and the Mare of Easttown’s James McArdle have said they took inspiration from Kim Kardashian and Kanye West for their latest stage roles as the Macbeths.
Ronan, who is making her UK stage debut as Lady Macbeth in Yaël Farber’s production at London’s Almeida theatre, said she and McArdle decided to compare the tragic Shakespeare characters to a “modern power couple”.
“We keep thinking about Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as like a Kim and Kanye situation, where there have been stages to their success and real kind of highs and lows,” she told the BBC in an interview.
Kim and Kanye – often known by the portmanteau “Kimye” – announced earlier this year that they were divorcing after seven years of marriage. They began dating in 2012 and married in May 2014 in a lavish ceremony at a 16th-century fortress in Florence.
Ronan called them a “couple that is professional but also has tenderness”, adding: There is so much of their private life that we don’t know.”
She said she and McArdle had found it helpful to call their characters Susan and Neil Macbeth “because this is a domestic tragedy about a couple”.
“The tragedy is that these two people who are soul mates and peers and very much partners in every way … when that starts to come apart, what we would hope is that, when people come to see it, that is when the sadness seeps in,” she said.
The Tragedy of Macbeth, as it will be billed, opens on 1 October. The Almeida’s artistic director, Rupert Goold, has said it presents a “more equivalent relationship” between the Macbeths than is usually shown. The production was in the works before theatres were closed because of the pandemic and Goold said he was relieved that he had been able to keep a team of such in-demand talents together.
Ronan, who won acclaim on Broadway in a 2016 staging of The Crucible, is among several “extraordinary young actors” in the Almeida’s new season.
The 27-year-old Irish actor was first thrust into the spotlight in the film Atonement at the age of 13, and has established herself as a leading in lady in films including Brooklyn, Lady Bird and Little Women. She has previously appeared alongside McArdle in the period dramas Mary Queen of Scots and Ammonite.
The Olivier-nominated McArdle, who was most recently seen on screens as Deacon Mark Burton on HBO’s hugely successful Mare of Eastown, said Macbeth had been “hijacked by the horror concept”.
“The thing we wanted more than anything was a functional marriage. A love story,” he told the BBC. He added that he often received “obscene” messages from his former co-star Kate Winslet. “She’s coming to see Macbeth,” he said. “The Mare of Easttown.”