Outrageously amusing Alan Cumming plays disturbed sicko in one-man ‘Macbeth’
- Last Updated: 11:03 PM, June 30, 2012
- Posted: 10:19 PM, June 30, 2012
He wore pasties in “Cabaret” and skintight leathers for “The Threepenny Opera.” But you’ll see even more of Alan Cumming on Thursday, when his bold new “Macbeth” opens the Lincoln Center Festival. The 47-year-old actor plays every role in Shakespeare’s Scottish play, in which his Lady Macbeth has “a pretty saucy” scene in a bathtub.
The production met with standing ovations — and a few walkouts — last month in Scotland. “It is not to everyone’s taste,” conceded The Independent of London, “but even for those who do not enjoy high-concept Shakespeare performed by a coquettish, hairy-legged man in a towel, there is much to enjoy.”
We caught up with Cumming last week as he taxied through Glasgow. Here’s what he had to say about his role as Eli Gold on “The Good Wife,” the Bard and his ugly, nail-puking part in “Sleep No More.”
Who decided to make a solo of “Macbeth”?
It was Andy Goldberg, one of the directors. My initial idea was I’d play Macbeth one night and Lady Macbeth the next, and the actress and I would switch off. Andy was at the reading and said, “Why doesn’t Alan just do all the parts?” And he had an idea to do it in a [mental] hospital. It’s not really a one-man show — there’s also a doctor and a nurse. But I play all the parts in “Macbeth.”
What’s it like being the center of attention for 100 minutes?
Exhausting. Terrifying! I think, if I ever have a lapse in concentration, the whole pack of cards is going to tumble down. Usually, when someone else is speaking, you can cough or fart or what-ever. But here you just can’t. There are a couple of bits where I get sedated and lie down for about 30 seconds and it’s like, nirvana!
Sounds like a marathon!
I trained in New York for months before I came here to get my stamina up. I worked very hard, and you try to keep that up — I’ve actually just come from the swimming pool! There’s an old-fashioned bath club in the west end of Glasgow, full of old men with bellies sitting in armchairs, reading newspapers. And I’m frantically doing laps in the pool.
Did you see “Sleep No More,” that immersive “Macbeth” in a Chelsea warehouse?
I was in it! It was so great! There’s this bit where you truss someone up like a mummy. When it happened to me, I thought I was going to get kissed — it was a weird mixture of fear and eroticism. When I told them I loved it, they asked if I wanted to be in it, so I rehearsed that bit for an afternoon and then I did it to all these poor people — trussed them up, then vomited a nail out of my mouth. I really loved it.
TV’s “The Good Wife” — is it still good for you?
Yes! I just got the script for the new season yesterday, so that’s exciting. It’s funny — this play has been such an overwhelming experience, it seems I’m 10,000 miles away from Eli Gold and everyone else. I’m shooting two days on it while I’m at Lincoln Center so I’ll be double dipping.
Last season, you had a love scene with Amy Sedaris. . .
Oh my God, that was hilarious! She played my nemesis, and we had this affair. We didn’t have to do sex, just post-coital. There was one scene where she had to suck whipped cream off my fingers, which was the most difficult scene ever, because I was helpless with laughter. Then we had to do a scene with Parker Posey, who plays my ex-wife. I called it “the axis of evil,” because the two of them are so hysterical.
When you were doing “Threepenny Opera,” you told me you considered yourself bisexual because, as you put it, “I find women attractive.” You’re married now, to a man. Still bisexual?
Oh yes, nothing’s changed.
Now that you’ve played Nightcrawler in “X-Men,” are there more action roles in the offing?
Ha! Maybe. I was talking to one of my agents the other day, and said I’d really like to do something easy on my next summer holiday, something utterly frivolous.
Any regrets about bowing out of “Spider-Man” on Broadway?
Um, no! I thought it was going to be really — well, I left long before all the terrible accidents and disputes. It was mostly scheduling, but no, I don’t regret it at all!
Wikipedia says you’re moving to Scotland.
How funny — no! I have a flat in London and I’m going to buy a place in Edinburgh, mostly because I spend more time there, and I want to vote on the referendum [on Scottish independence]. Some people are saying I’m the new Sean Connery — I don’t live in the country but I have all these views! But I think independence is a good idea.
And your new fragrance is called . . .
“The Second Cumming.” It’s doing well. It’s got a leathery, sort of earthy, soil-y smell. I gave it to all the people at “Macbeth,” and the lady who puts my scars on loves it. It’s sold at I Hate Perfume in Brooklyn. All the money goes to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
Every now and then they get a nice little check, and the world smells better!