After Henry V and Coriolanus, Claire Morley completes her hattrick of all-female Shakespeare shows with NTC’s Macbeth

Seat of power: Claire Morley, as Macbeth, in Northumberland Theatre Company’s modern-day Macbeth. Picture: Jim Donnelly

YORK actor Claire Morley is starring in Chris Connaughton’s all-female, three-hander version of Macbeth for Northumberland Theatre Company.

Directed by associate director Alice Byrne, she is joined in Shakespeare’s “very gruesome” tragedy by Gillian Hambleton and Melanie Dagg on an autumn tour to theatres, community venues, village halls and schools that visits Stillington Village Hall, near York, tonight (8/9/2022) and Pocklington Arts Centre on September 29.

This streamlined, fast-paced, extremely physical re-boot of Macbeth with original music will be told largely from the witches’ perspective, exploring ideas of manipulation through the media and other external forces. Expect grim, gory grisliness to the Mac max in two action-packed 40-minute halves.

Claire Morley and Gillian Hambleton in a scene from Northumberland Theatre Company’s Macbeth. Picture: Jim Donnelly

Here CharlesHutchPress puts Claire Morley on the damned spot, demanding quick answers, like Macbeth confronting the “secret, black, and midnight hags”.

How did you become involved with Northumberland Theatre Company, Claire?

“I saw they were holding auditions earlier this year and went along as I liked the sound of the company and its mission to take shows to rural places who might not have regular access to the theatre. Then, about a month ago, I moved up to Northumberland for rehearsals.

What does an all-female cast bring to what is often seen as a toxic, machismo play, where even Lady Macbeth says “unsex me here”?

“To be honest, it’s not something that has massively concerned us in rehearsals as we’ve been exploring the characters and their relationships first and foremost. There are some lines about what it is to be a man, which I imagine might ping out more to the audience and make them see the text in new ways.”

Cut out to be king: Claire Morley, Melanie Dagg and Gillian Hambleton in Macbeth. Picture: Jim Donnelly

How are the roles divided between the three witches?

“Chris Connaughton has adapted the script so that the witches bookend the play; this gives us room to play with the witches in the sense that they are manipulating and telling the story.

“So, in the first scene you will see us choose who gets to be Duncan and Macbeth, for example. As there are only three actors, we do all play multiple roles, which has been really fun.”

What are the benefits of staging Macbeth as a three-hander?

“Well, practically, it’s much easier to tour with only three actors in the van! But I’ve also found that it means we have had to really streamline the script and think about what serves the story and what is superfluous.

“I think this makes the production pacy and easy to follow and will be great when we take it to schools for those students studying it for GCSE.” 

“As there are only three actors, we do all play multiple roles, which has been really fun,” says Claire Morley, left. Picture: Jim Donnelly

What is the set design and costume design for NTC’s Macbeth?

“As NTC is a rural touring company, we take everything with us in the van, so, when we get to a venue, we build our stage and lighting rig and set up costumes and props.

“Where we can, such as in Stillington, we’re performing in traverse, which means that the audience sit either side of the stage. I think this gives the show an immediacy as the audience will really feel part of the action, and privy to our thoughts.

“When we’re at Pocklington, for example, we’ll be performing on their stage, so we have to adapt to the venues we’re in! 

“The sound and lighting design really add to the atmosphere and help us change scenes and moods without elaborate set changes.” 

Claire Morley, centre, as Henry V at Agincourt in York Shakespeare Project’s all-female Henry V in 2015. Picture: Michael J Oakes

Does NTC’s Macbeth have a particular period setting?

“We’ve given the play a modern feel. You’ll see how the witches receive some of their prophecies on mobile phones!”

How does this production compare with your previous all-female Shakespeare experiences in York in Maggie Smales’s Henry V, in 2015, and Madeleine O’Reilly’s Coriolanus in 2018.

“I had an absolutely amazing time working with York Shakespeare Project on Henry V and Coriolanus and I hope that all theatre companies continue to implement diverse casting.

“What differs this time is more the circumstances. I’ve never been on tour before and that is the biggest difference! It’s hard work travelling and doing the get-ins and get-outs but I’m in fantastic company and I’m having a great time.” 

Something wicked this way comes: Northumberland Theatre Company in Macbeth, Stillington Village Hall, near York, tonight (8/9/2022); Pocklington Arts Centre, September 29, both 7.30pm. Box office: Stillington, 01347 811 544 or on the door; Pocklington, 01759 301547 or

The tour poster for Northumberland Theatre Company’s Macbeth, playing Stillington and Pocklington