Arts, Culture & Media

Well-known Scottish actor Alan Cumming takes all roles in new Broadway showing of Macbeth

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Alan Cumming stars as Macbeth, and a host of other characters, in the new Broadway version of the classic Shakespeare play. (Photo by Albert Watson.)

Alan Cumming likes doing accents.

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He’s played a German mutant in the X-Men franchise, a Russian Bond villain, and the venomous Washington operative Eli Gold on The Good Wife. He recalls that when he showed up on the set of Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick chewed him out.

“You’re not American,” the director yelled. “You were American on the tape!”

Cumming took it in stride.

“That’s because I’m an actor, Stanley,” Cumming explained.

Cumming is actually Scottish — a vocal supporter of the Scottish home rule movement — and he is playing a famous Scot on Broadway right now in Macbeth.

In fact, he plays many Scots: the harrowing production is set in an insane asylum, with Cumming as a patient acting out the entire play by himself.

“There was a moment where I thought 'I can’t do this,'” he said. “It’s too much. I can’t learn a whole play. I just felt as though I’d taken on too much. But I did it.”

Yet his quick shifts from Macbeth to Lady Macbeth, and other moments of the play, bring some levity to the tragedy.

“You have to let the audience know they can laugh,” he said. “You have to let them know that’s allowed because later on when really horrible things happen both in the play and to me, as a performer, I think people need to know that if I do something funny, there’s a release for them.”

Cumming will soon return to Broadway as the Master of Ceremonies in the much-anticipated revival of the 1998 hit production of Cabaret, which made him a star in America.

He said Kurt he’s looking forward to spending his 50th birthday in that slinky role.

“The whole experience of what happened to me because of the show, whilst I was doing the show, was so overwhelming. I was so green. And, this time, I won’t be as scared,” he said.

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