Lady Macbeth lives and Birnam comes to Dunsinane
MACBETH was a bit worried about Birnam Woods coming to Dunsinane – and rightly so, it turns out.
David Greig’s much acclaimed play, Dunsinane, picks up where the Scottish Play left off – with a slight twist: Lady Macbeth, now going by her own name of Gruach, is still alive.
Siward (Jonny Phillips) has led the English troops north of the border in a bid to create peace by controlling the warring clans and installing the fey and self-indulgent Malcolm (Sandy Grierson) as king.
The major hitch in the plan is the existence of Gruach (Siobhan Redmond) and her son, who is the rightful heir to the throne.
Is bloodshed or diplomacy the right way to go to win the day?
And how will Siward cope with the powerful charisma of Macbeth’s widow?
Siward, ably aided by Macduff, finds the going tough in an alien land, as do his band of young soldiers, who really just want to go home to cosy England and escape the harsh wilds of Scotland.
Parallels could be drawn with the war in Iraq and how hard it is for an invading force even to understand the complications of another’s land and social structure, let alone install order in it.
The young soldiers swing between raucous jollity, fear and homesickness extremely well, and much tenderness and humour is injected by the narrative scenes in which the Boy Soldier, ably played by Tom Gill, sends letters home describing the loss of lives and the harsh realities of war in a hostile landscape.
Special mention must go to the stark and brooding set and lighting, which combine to make a wonderfully dark, dank atmosphere. And Sandy Grierson steals the limelight as the wry, corrupt Malcolm.
Of course the character we’ve all been intrigued by since Shakespeare downed his quill in 1606 is Lady M, played ethereally by Siobhan Redmond, but her character is not as developed as it could have been.
At two hours and 20 minutes, Dunsinane is also a tad too long for comfort and it did falter in pace on occasion.
But overall, this collaboration between the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Scotland under the direction of Roxana Silbert, is a fascinating concept – what happened after Macbeth was slain? And it will spark your imagination.
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