Breakless at Tiffany’s: The Indefatigable Tony King Talks Yorkshire Pride, and What Drew Him To Once

His one-man Macbeth, with pal Alan Cumming, is set in a psychiatric hospital

Nobody noticed, but, when Mr. Tiffany accepted his award, he was wearing his roots in his lapel—a dainty white flower from Yorkshire. He meant it as a sentimental salute to his parents, “who gave me the gift of music. They weren’t musicians—my mum was a nurse, my dad was an engineer—but they both had music as hobbies, and I grew up with music. There was something about Once and the process of working on it that made me really connect to home. I live in Scotland now, but I spend a lot of time in America, and I just thought I want to wear something from Yorkshire.”

Otherwise, the 40-year-old deputy director of the National Theatre of Scotland looked very much like a stranger in a strange land—which indeed he was, jetting in just for the awards and then back to Glasgow the next day. He was steering his pal, Mr. Cumming, through Macbeth—all the roles in Macbeth—and left him after the final dress rehearsal in possibly the biggest multiple-personality pile-up since Sybil.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to come because we were right in the middle of the creation process when the Tonys were happening,” Mr. Tiffany said. “If I wasn’t co-directing this with Andy Goldberg, I wouldn’t have been able to come—but, luckily, I was, I could, and I did. It was an absolutely fantastic night. The really great thing about New York theater life is that, if they like you, by God, they let you know!”

This one-man, 100-minute Macbeth—which premiered June 15 at Glasgow’s Tranway Theatre and will transfer to New York’s Rose Theatre July 5-14 as part of this year’s Lincoln Center Festival—is the result of “a meeting of three minds”: Mr. Cumming’s, Mr. Goldberg’s and his. And, yes, as a matter of fact, the actor did come first.

“Alan approached me at the beginning of last year and asked, ‘You fancy doing Macbeth?’ He had the idea that the actor playing Macbeth (i.e., him) and the actress playing Lady Macbeth could swap parts every other night since there’s so much language and talk about masculinity and femininity, so we did a reading in New York. A good friend and collaborator of mine, the New York-based director Andy Goldberg, came to the reading, and afterward we were talking. He said, ‘I always thought a one-man version of Macbeth set in a psychiatric hospital would be great.’ That idea got us both suddenly excited, so we took it to Alan, and he went for it.”

They were preaching to the converted. The first Shakespeare that Mr. Cumming ever read was Macbeth—plus, he hails from Aberfeldy, in Perthshire, Scotland, where the play’s place names (Bertram Woods, Dunsinane) are a hop, skip and jump from home. Such a contagious kinship to the characters almost insisted he play them all.

“You kinda have to see the show to see what Alan is doing—it’s incredibly fluid and subtle,” said Mr. Tiffany of the multitasking. “When we first meet him, he’s just arrived at the psychiatric hospital. Then, he starts to inhabit the characters and stories of Macbeth. As the production progresses, the reason he’s doing that becomes clear. There are no costume changes, no props as such. He’s trapped in this room.”

Breakless at Tiffany’s: The Indefatigable Tony King Talks Yorkshire Pride, and What Drew Him To <em>Once</em>