REUBEN Joseph talks a lot about luck, and the good fortune he has had to land a string of high-profile roles since graduating from college in Glasgow in 2018.
He has appeared in TV drama Vigil, alongside Suranne Jones and Rose Leslie, and spent a year as the lead in Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit West End musical.
Now, he is preparing to play Macbeth, in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new version of the tragedy, at its famous Stratford-upon-Avon home.
“I’ve been in Stratford for three days and already, it feels like it’s a bit of a mecca for actors,” he marvels, during a break in rehearsals.
“It is a beautiful place, you do feel proud to be here at the RSC. Equally, you’re trying not to feel the weight of that, or to get caught up in a kind of self-congratulatory thing, while appreciating all those who helped get you to this position.”
The truth is, this young actor who “fell into acting” because his older sister did it too, has earned sparkling reviews and proper one-to-watch status already.

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One critic said he was “fantastic” in Hamilton, bringing “power and charm” to the role; the Saltire Society included him in their prestigious 40 Under 40 list this year, and Wils Wilson, who is directing Macbeth, describes him as “an incredibly exciting Scottish actor” whose “rise has been pretty meteoric.”
So, talent has played a part too, then?
“Well, that remains to be seen,” he says, with a laugh.
“I’m here through a lot of blind luck. I started at youth theatre in Glasgow, because my sister did it, and I thought it looked like something I’d enjoy. We did Oliver!, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and I really did love it.”

He adds: “Then you get to high school, and you’re 16 and suddenly there is all this pressure about the future. I remember thinking: ‘I’m barely getting to grips with who I am at this moment, how on earth am I supposed to know what I want to do next?’”
An academic route was not for him, he explains.
“Those subjects didn’t suit me, but I felt like I could be useful if I did drama,” he says, simply.
“During a school show rehearsal, one of my teachers, Paul Price, took me aside and said, this scene is really good, you should enjoy it.”
He adds: “It was the first time I’d heard something encouraging like that, something that told me I was good at this. That – and my less than stellar grades – made me think from that point on, acting was something I could be good at.”
Apart from his sister’s earlier dalliance with youth theatre, there is no “showbizzy background” to which Joseph can lay claim.

The Herald: Reuben Joseph in rehersalsReuben Joseph in rehersals (Image: free)
“Not at all,” he says, smiling. “I was the only one who didn’t grow out of it. My three sisters all have high-flying jobs, and I’m still dancing around in tights.”
Born in Glasgow, Joseph moved with his family to Helensburgh while still a child.
“It’s a really lovely place, but by the age of 16, a small town is not where you want to be,” he says. “I moved back to Glasgow, the big city, to study at Langside College.”
His first gig, he says, was with the National Theatre of Scotland, in its rom-com rollercoaster of a play, Midsummer.
“I was lucky,” he repeats. “I played a wee bit of guitar, and they were looking for someone who could move around, do bits and pieces.
“Actually, it is a full-circle moment here, because Alasdair Macrae was associate musical director on Midsummer, and he’s now MD on Macbeth.”
Coincidentally, Joseph’s only other on-stage experience of Shakespeare was also Macbeth – this time, The Tragedy of Macbeth at London’s Almeida Theatre, in which he played Angus. At school, he says, “not much was done to make Shakespeare feel fun, or accessible”.
“When that happens, you can end up dismissing it, but I found an appreciation of it at college,” he explains. “It’s part of an actor’s education.
“To be playing Macbeth now – I don’t think there’s a single Scottish actor who hasn’t dreamt of getting their hands on this part.”

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The world of Wilson’s production – the cast is entirely Scottish, with the exception of Lady Macbeth who is played by The Fall actor Valene Kane, from Northern Ireland – is an imagined near-future.
The climate is more extreme, and there’s scarcity of resources and war – the perfect backdrop, says Joseph, against which the Macbeths can rise.
“This world will feel scarily familiar to audiences,” he explains. “The economics, the climate, the politics – it is all set just a little bit further on from where we are now. In the scenes with Malcolm and Macduff, for example, it is hard to separate what is happening on stage with what is happening around us.
“I think people will get a keen sense of country and nation from it.”

Reuben Joseph joins Macbeth straight from a year as Alexander Hamilton in one of the West End’s hottest musicals, which is currently touring the UK.
He had auditioned for Hamilton five years previously, while still a student, but he had not been successful. During The Tragedy Of Macbeth at the Almeida, he was approached to audition again, for the lead role.
“Luckily, thanks to that show’s amazing longevity, I got another chance,” he says. “It was a magical thing to be part of. I have always been, and still am, a huge fan of that show.”
Immediately before Hamilton, Joseph had one of the lead roles in the National Theatre of Scotland’s musical adaptation of Orphans. If it is a leap, to move from gritty, Scottish theatre to the glamour of London’s hottest show and on to chilling, gripping Shakespearian tragedy, then it is one Joseph is embracing wholeheartedly.

The Herald: Macbeth rehearsalsMacbeth rehearsals (Image: free)
“When I listen to any of my favourite actors speak, one of the lessons they give about longevity is to diversify,” he says.
“Being a jobbing actor means you don’t often get the chance to choose what you do, but if you get to that stage, and can be choosy, then it’s good to switch it up.”
His only ambition, while a student in Glasgow, was to “get a flat in the city, with an upright piano, and be able to support myself doing creative work.” 
He adds: “I was prepared to work for five, 10 years, however long it took to get there, so I feel so incredibly lucky that I’ve fallen into it so quickly.
“I was fortunate to graduate before Covid hit, so I had a couple of years’ experience before everything shut down, and to come out of college when there was such a groundswell of filming going on in Glasgow.”
The city has recently played host to crews filming hit TV dramas like Annika, Irvine Welsh’s Crime and Vigil. “It’s great for Glasgow,” says Joseph, “and it is proof that you don’t need to move to London to be an actor. There is lots of good work being done in Scotland, on stage and on screen.”
Macbeth runs from August 19 to October 14 at the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon.