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Macbeth : Playing Angus

Richard Armitage said of his role as Angus, "I went to Japan with the RSC, in a production of Macbeth.  I had a seven line role in the play.” [1]

He has described his early theatre work after leaving LAMDA as ‘spear-carrying’ at the RSC and the Birmingham Rep. The part of Angus is not a large one, but it is a speaking part.  In this production, the tough, battle-hardened warriors who surround first Duncan, then Macbeth (before turning against him), are a strong physical presence throughout the play, almost a chorus or even at times a macho corps de ballet.  Not a spear in sight here.

Angus actually has more than seven lines in the play. We first see him in Act 1 scene 2, with Rosse, who comes with the news of victory over King Duncan’s enemies, including the traitorous Thane of Cawdor.  Angus and Rosse are sent by the King to greet Macbeth with the news that he is now Thane of Cawdor. 

Angus:  “We are sent / To give thee from thy royal master thanks; / Only to herald thee into his sight / Not pay thee” [2]

We see him alert and wary, all piercing eyes in a camouflaged, blackened face, every inch the loyal soldier, under orders to his king.  We see him with Banquo, observing Macbeth as he processes this news, and compares it to the prophesy of the three Weird Sisters.

Angus:  “ … now does he feel his title / Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe / Upon a dwarfish thief.” [3]

Thereafter, we see him in the background (but his presence unmistakable) in a number of scenes, and, just before the final battle, he speaks again, in a scene where he plots with his fellow officers to link up with Malcolm’s invading force of English soldiers.

The production went on tour after its run at Stratford. Several years later, Richard Armitage remembered, “[In] Tokyo … fans outside the stage door [were] waiting for me with seven lines to sign their Star Wars memorabilia … which was just insane, absolutely mad, but – great!” [4]

With characteristic modesty, Richard Armitage talks down his contribution to this production of Macbeth, and marvels at his impact on the Star Wars fans in Tokyo.  It is for his admirers to find out for themselves that he formed part of one of the great ensemble casts of recent years, in one of the legendary productions of Macbeth of our time, now on permanent record as an acclaimed film version on DVD.


[1] 'vivid' magazine, spring 2005
[2] Macbeth Act 1 Sc 3: Angus.
[3] Macbeth Act 5 Sc 2: Angus.
[4] Richard Armitage: interview with Matthew Wright, BBC Radio 26th March 2005

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