In a new interview with Playbill, Kenneth Branagh (Lockhart in the Potter films) discusses his New York City stage debut in Macbeth as well as the location of the play, which is an old armory.

“I used to stay with friends on the Upper East Side,” recalled Sir Kenneth Branagh in a recent phone interview, “and I walked by the Park Avenue Armory regularly, always thinking, ‘Gosh, it looks like a castle from the outside, like a stronghold.’ So, when it was suggested to me, I knew it would be perfect for the idea we always wanted to do — to give people an environmental experience from the word go.”

That feeling, said Sir Ken, “in New York starts as soon as you approach the outside of the Armory, frankly. You’re already seeing something that takes up a whole city block that is martial and very massive, and it will be containing a play that will be at least those things, as well as being a thriller and a supernatural ghost story and something that deals with primal human motivations in a big, sort of loaded space.

“You are aware, especially in the way they have refurbished the Armory, of its history with New York regiments. People have gone to wars from that building and from those rooms, and they have returned from wars. It carries that sense of a martial history that is very human and very thick and well over a century old. Thus, the atmosphere that the play is unleashed in is particular potent at the Armory.”

The play, a little over two hours in length, will be running for three weeks beginning tomorrow, June 5th (previews begin tomorrow). Tickets and more information may be found here.

“We play it at absolute breakneck speed,” said the 53-year-old knight, “because the events of the play are partly explained by the whirlwind that Macbeth and the other characters are subjected to. We wanted that reflected in the pace of our production.

“Here, we go for a very primitive and primal approach to the play. First screen direction: thunder, lightning, and rain — that’s what we start with. We try to keep the play visually in Scotland in a cruel world where he who fights hardest and longest wins, where there is a sort of appetite for power expressed in very clannish kinds of ways. The politics is basic and crude, with so much of it to do with physical martial prowess. In a way, the play is partly about a move in Scotland from a primitive world into new Middle Ages where there’s more hierarchy, titles, and structure.

“But the world our Macbeth lives in is a little more dog-eat-dog savage, elemental, where you feel the sense of the travel these characters have to take to go around Scotland. You feel the heat. You feel the weather. You feel the desperation. You feel the savagery of it and where the motivations are very basic. When Macbeth has this brief opportunity to potentially seize power, you feel the nakedness of his ambition.”

Additionally, a video interview with the actor may be watched below:

Read the full interview over at Playbill.

Filed Under: Kenneth Branagh