An unexpected and rather disturbing sight greeted us this morning as we approached the inlet in the dunes where once, many many moons ago, the tiny port of Bamburgh – and access to the castle’s original entrance – used to be. For there, towering over the beach was a platform of punishment, immediately putting us in mind of some medieval horror. And that is exactly what it is intended to do; for it, and others planned like it, have been erected by the location joiners working on a new film of Macbeth, scenes from which they are shooting in and beneath Bamburgh Castle this week. A massive marquee fit for a dog show has taken over the village’s car park, halving its capacity, and these wooden instruments of torture and display are being deployed to settle seamlessly alongside the telegraph poles they do remarkably resemble.
As we bound along at daybreak, it is not infrequently that we evade capture on camera, whether in the background to something ecological or ornithological. Only a fortnight ago there were delightful discarded breakfast baps to be had as we burst through a crush of trailers, parked for a good couple of days in order to capture in ‘the can’ precisely three minutes of action for Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.
Encouraging the villagers to embrace the arrival of the butcher and his fiend-like queen this coming week – for whom our little family, as enthusiastic Shakespeareans, have always had a lot of time anyway (there but for the grace of God, and all that) – the production team begged indulgence for any inconvenience caused, commending the fact that they’d be using Shakespeare’s original text: much mirth indeed! Let’s hope it’s as powerful a film version as good old Polanski’s, in which a friend of ours as a sixth former decades ago enjoyed an exciting week’s work as an extra. A play it’s incredibly easy to do badly, on stage or film, let’s hope the glories of the castle and its outlook over the North Sea lend the director and players a hand, as they did when we gathered within the precincts of the keep for a touring version with a very small cast. That night the rooks stood in for ravens but the temple-haunting martlets played themselves, transforming a theatrical challenge on a chill late August night with moments of pure and emotive theatre, darting around and about us, punctuating and endorsing dear old Duncan’s reflection upon arrival that:
And both he, and Banquo – who agrees – are right: for the horrors that unfold are of mankind’s making, like the scaffolds now springing up around and about an ancient capital, where Oswald ruled and Aidan served, and to which folk increasingly turn when wanting to evoke another world, another place.