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Macbeth with Dr Ben Askew
Episode 408th February 2024 • People Soup • People Soup
00:00:00 00:26:56

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Hi there and a very warm welcome to Season 5 Episode 40 of People Soup – it’s Ross McIntosh here. 

P Soupers - here's the final part of my chat with Dr Ben Askew - he's an acting teacher, writer and director.

In this episode you're hear us talk about the Shakespeare play - Macbeth - with a particular focus on Lady Macbeth and her husband. We explore the characters through the lens of ACT and the ACT Matrix - and find both depth and humanity. You'll also hear what Ben means when he says we're all playing on the same board, the pitfalls when we treat someone as a character and gender differences at work - again related to Lady Macbeth.

The icon photo for this episode is actor Jessica Kinsey she's in a workshop with Ben, exploring the character of Lady Macbeth with masks and I just love the intensity of Jessica's expression. You'll find Jessica's instagram in the shownotes.

People Soup is an award winning podcast where we share evidence based behavioural science, in a way that’s practical, accessible and fun. We're all about Unlocking Workplace Potential with expert perspectives from Contextual Behavioural Science.

Another first for Season 5 is that I'm adding a transcript, wherever possible. There is a caveat - this transcript is largely generated by Artificial Intelligence, I have corrected many errors but I won't have captured them all! You can also find the shownotes by clicking on notes, keep scrolling for all the useful links.

You can find all the details of my ACT in the Workplace Train the Trainer Program over on our partner's website, Contextual Consulting.

The discount code for 20% off the Program is PSOUP20

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Transcripts

#3 Ben and Macbeth

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[00:00:05] Ben: I don't know about you Ross, I've yet to murder the King of Scotland. Um, that's, that's not yet been crossed off my list of, you know, my, my bucket list of things to do in my life. I also haven't arranged to have, my best friend, um, killed by, killed by hired assassins.

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[00:01:08] PeeSoopers, here's the final part of my chat with Dr. Ben Askew. He's an acting teacher, writer, and director. In this episode, you'll hear us talk about the Shakespeare play, Macbeth, with a particular focus on Lady Macbeth and her husband.

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[00:02:08] Our mission is to unlock workplace potential with expert perspectives from contextual behavioural science.

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[00:02:32] You'll find Jessica's Instagram in the show notes.

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[00:02:49] I've trained hundreds of adults using this approach and also hundreds of trainers too. And thanks to Joe Oliver at Contextual Consulting, there's a code for the course that gives you a 20 percent discount.

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[00:03:03] Peasoup as I'm recording this intro on the road. I'm in Dublin, in the Hyatt centric The Liberties. And it's jolly nice. I'll be working at the Guinness Storehouse for the next couple of days. For now, get a brew on and have a listen to part 3 of my chat with Ben Askew.

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[00:03:33] Ben: Well, yeah, this is a, a play. We've had a little chat about it, previously. It's a play I'm doing a lot of thinking about. I mean, it's partly a play I've always done a lot of thinking about. But, also with, A couple of the actors from the working action group. We've been looking for opportunities where we're just looking at the moment for when we can do our next, um, bit of work around it.

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[00:04:24] And particularly, Lady Macbeth, I think. Some of the Broad descriptions that get attached to how we think of these characters, particularly where there's a lot that gets said about the play. Understandably, when words like evil get used and where there's a lot of talk about ambition and power and all of these things that are clearly important and there in the play.

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[00:05:25] Of going, you know, there, there might be lots of behaviours here that, that, uh, not behaviours that you you condone, but you, but if you get into the position where, If you're trying to help someone in that kind of relationship where you are just judging the person and labeling them as a bad, as a bad person, then the helping relationship can't can't work that you have to maintain.

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[00:06:36] And I think what emerges for me, not some sort of definite truth about the play and the characters, because one of the joys of these things is that, that it's interpretation, right? And that, that there's, rich and open to interpretation these, these plays.

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[00:07:19] There is stuff particularly I think about, being able to be present and in the moment in different ways for both of those characters. that is very, very hard. there is a lot that is painful about being here now. And there is an, there are attempts to problem solve that, to get away from that.

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[00:08:17] That will be the end. I will be finished. You know, if I just go through, do the next action, As you know, he goes through with the, the, murder of Duncan spoilers For anyone that's not, that's not seen the play yet, you know, he kills the King of Scotland and thinks that that's gonna take him somewhere and then ends up in this place where actually he feels full of fear and full of insecurity, and that he's in incredible danger and that he has to kill again and has to kill his best friend.

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[00:09:08] Lens is about watching how much about tragedy can be thought about in terms of the way that people get stuck in these loops of trying to stop, pain, trying to get away from their suffering in a situation and coming up with, as I say, these unworkable, But humanly understandable attempts to solve a problem.

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[00:10:07] And in a sense, a lot of, a lot of comedy and romance and all of these kind of things that also start, start from the, from a lot of. Inflexible stuck processes and what that hero's quest or the the blossoming of this love that people find in the story or whatever it might be, is about finding that reconnection to values, finding a flexible towards move that is what allows our happy endings to emerge in those stories.

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[00:10:54] so in acting terms, we, and as we do in life, you know, we lay, we label characters, we label people, we characteristics, Brice of King. They're like this, they're like that, that he's an intellectual. She's a, you know, she, she's funny. She's this, she's whatever, whatever labels we put to, to who, who people are on what, what one of the things that I think is brilliant from a.

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[00:11:38] But, but it serves a function in a context. If people behave in a certain way. And again, coming to something like Lady Macbeth and people might say, Well, she's, she's brutal and she's harsh and she's this and she's that and going, Okay, maybe she is. Can we look at in what context do those behaviors appear? And what function [00:12:00] might those behaviors be serving for her when they appear? And again, I think it's this, this really. fascinating thing, a very humanizing thing where you go, Oh, she's not brutal because she's just inherently brutal and that because it's just like it runs through her like a stick of, like through a stick of Blackpool rock.

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[00:12:44] It was fun because, you know, I can be a little bit heady with things and I know for, for. I have been working with a wonderful actor, Jess, on Lady Macbeth, who's been part of the Working Action Group for a long time. and it meant there's parts of that process, she was painting masks with different designs of these different versions of Lady Macbeth.

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[00:13:43] but, if you start to map the process out on the matrix. And you go, you know, we have the, this, this language of functional equivalence that it, that I think is a really interesting and useful concept that I've not done the same behaviors. I've not done behaviors that are even comparable in [00:14:00] terms of the form of the behaviors. But have I done things that are functionally equivalent? Have I tried to deal with my pain and my fear? In functionally equivalent ways and got myself stuck in loops through a similar process. And that's where I go, oh yeah, I have, in terms of psychological processes, I've been in the Macbeth loop. Even if my behaviors have never looked like any of the behaviors you would see from her Macbeth.

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[00:15:00] Mm

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[00:15:32] Ben: yeah, yeah.

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[00:15:34] Ross: And it could almost be shorthand to represent that type of character, which I think transposes to the workplace in the different characterizations we have between gender in the

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[00:15:45] Ross: A man can be banging his fist on the table, raising his voice, and people will consider him to be impassioned and visionary.

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[00:16:05] Ben: Right.

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[00:16:12] Ben: Mm hmm.

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[00:16:17] think.

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[00:16:52] But I think, as you say, with a much broad, with, with potentially a much broader application of. A way of thinking that always asks that question about what's the, what's the function? What is this serving for, for someone? as you say, that people behave in ways, whether we like them or don't, don't like them, but they behave in those ways because that's just how they are. And actually going, no, they're, they're They're doing something. They're responding to some need in them.

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[00:17:19] them. and maybe that's in a way that, that it, that is workable. Maybe it's in a way that's, that's not workable.

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[00:17:25] Ben: But one of the things I, I love again with this kind of thing of, judgment and the, the matrix.

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[00:17:56] For people and people are behaving in response [00:18:00] to trying to manage those things and that's it from that perspective, there's not another special compartment

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[00:18:17] And I think if, if, kicking the matrix around in a, whether it's in a workplace or rehearsal room, wherever it is, even if that's the only thing that comes out of it, a bit of appreciation for the fact that we're all responding to the stuff that's showing up for us in that diagram, then I think that is pretty valuable in and of itself.

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[00:19:01] voice heard.

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[00:19:07] Ben: one of, uh, Very famous bits of her of her text and she had where she has the speech where she calls on spirits to Unsex me here is what she says to take away I mean to did she calls upon them to take the milk from her breast to take away her her periods to take away with the Things that that's that make her a body a woman's body with the idea that that will take away and stop stop up some of the emotional qualities that are also being associated with what it means to be, to be a woman in that, in that world, so that she can, in her mind, have the, the strength and the resolution to go through with what she thinks needs to be done and what she needs to, to the strength she needs to provide for her husband, she thinks, to get him to go through with what needs to be.[00:20:00]

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[00:20:46] In the way that people are described and thought about, and characterized within life and certainly within work environments. And I think to use the word characterized, I think that's one of the things about acting and storytelling that is really useful to unpick.

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[00:21:24] Real people in the world. how do we acknowledge? People's individuality, what they bring, all of those things, without, labelling and reducing and forcing people into rigid positions or imposing rigidity on them in our ways that we characterise them and indeed characterise ourselves. and it's that balance, isn't it, between how important our Stories about who we are and who other people are are because the because they are they are hugely important to how we make sense of [00:22:00] ourselves to make sense of the world relate to other people but also how they can how they can lead us into those very rigid attachments to self stories and conceptualize cells and these kind of straitjackets Of who we're meant to be and who other people are allowed to be.

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[00:22:27] Ross: Wow. And one more workplace facet just is screaming at me is the, the continued actions of Macbeth and Lady

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[00:22:50] collapse.

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[00:22:52] Ross: That there's someone who's maybe made an error, and is seeking to rectify that error, and does another thing that's potentially quite risky and

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[00:23:14] Understanding someone at the level of humanity is such a powerful thing to do.

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[00:23:47] It will bring sort of, you know, it will close this down and then we, then I can be in a different place and move on with something. With something else, right. and finding that there's never that end point and that you're getting dragged [00:24:00] further and further into, behaviors that actually don't. And that don't reflect your values as an individual or indeed as an organization.

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[00:24:19] Ross: Ben, I think I owe it to the P Supers, and I'd love to get you on another time to talk more about

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[00:24:27] Ben: I'd love to, yeah, your struggle to shut me up about it will be your issue I would think.

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[00:24:38] but peacekeepers watch this space. Yeah. And we haven't even talked about the witches yet,

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[00:24:45] Ross: Dan, thank you so much for taking us on that little journey I love the way we're calling them the Macbeths, like it's kind of George and Mildred. Thank you, thank you so much. I've loved that and, I sense we'll be chatting more about theatre and films, so

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[00:25:04] Ben: I really hope so. Thanks so much, Ross. It's been great to have this chat.

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[00:25:39] Now, we need your help please. You can support us and help us reach more people with this behavioral science. So you enjoyed this episode of the podcast, we'd love you to do three things.

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[00:25:58] Number three, share the [00:26:00] heck out of it on the socials. This would all help us reach more people and make some noise with stuff that could be useful. We'd love to hear from you and you can get in touch at peoplesoup. pod at gmail. com. On X, formerly known as Twitter, we are at peoplesouppod. on the gram, known as insta, We are at People. Soup and on Facebook we are at PeopleSoupPod. You can also drop us a review or get in touch using a voice note on WhatsApp.

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[00:26:39] Ben: I don't know about you Ross, I've yet to murder the King of Scotland. Um, that's, that's not yet been crossed off my list of, you know, my, my bucket list of things to do in my life. I also haven't arranged to have, my best friend, um, killed by, killed by hired assassins.

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