This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews
Dunsinane – Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Writer: David Greig
Director: Roxana Silbert
“What happens after the dictator falls?” That is the question Scottish playwright David Greig answers in his masterful work Dunsinane.
The English army, led by General Siward, are occupying Scotland: they have killed Macbeth and captured the castle at Dunsinane and are just about managing to maintain the uneasy peace. But unlike Shakespeare’s tale, this time the Lady is not dead. She is very much alive and well and exploiting every English myth about the mysterious Celts to plot her return to power.
Though set in 11th Century Scotland the examination of the effect of occupation on both the troops and the conquered populace has a depressing resonance, it could just as easily be Afghanistan or Iraq in 2013. Gruach (Lady Macbeth) perfectly encapsulates in one phrase the feeling of the native when a foreign power justifies a war in pursuit of peace in another’s country: “Your ‘peace’ is just another word for you winning,” she spits.
The cultural differences between the Scots and the English are exploited to good effect by Grieg and for all the drama and intrigue the play is replete with unexpected humour as the troops attempt to negotiate the intricate politics and allegiances of the clan system and come to terms with the restless natives, their customs and the unforgiving climate.
The perfectly controlled central performance of Jonny Phillips is utterly enthralling, he has the audience transfixed from the moment he strides onstage and holds them in his thrall to the bitter end. Siobhan Redmond is hypnotic as Lady Macbeth and the pair are ably supported by a talented ensemble, in particular, Tom Gill as The Boy Soldier, Joshua Jenkins as Eric the Archer and Sandy Grierson as Malcolm.
David Grieg is a writer of rare form and there is as much lyrical poetry in the lines as laughs. The action moves swiftly under the direction of Roxana Silbert and the two and a half hour running time flies by in the blink of an eye, leaving you wanting more. This is a compelling tale, vibrantly told, an unalloyed triumph and a pure pleasure to watch.
The Public Reviews Rating: