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Dunsinane

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
There's a devastating stillness to David Greig's big, audacious sequel
to Shakespeare's Macbeth, restaged here in Roxana Silbert's original
2010 Royal Shakespeare Company production care of the National Theatre
of Scotland. As English general Siward squares up to Scotland and all
its funny ways as defined by the polar opposites of puppet boy king
Malcolm and defiant surviving queen of the old order, Gruach, it's as
if the entire country is stuck in some long-term limbo, waiting for
something to happen.

This has nothing to do with nationalism, mind, lest anyone mistake the
play's appearance as some fortuitous bi-product of the Holyrood
election result. Rather, by using such a back-drop of imagined history,
Greig has unleashed a slow-burning and profound meditation on life in a
land occupied and overseen by some misguided but well-armed
peace-keeping force that can only end in a stubbornly personal war of
attrition.

Opening with the martial pulse of Nick Powell's contemporary and east
European-sounding live score, Greig immediately undercuts the play's
over-riding seriousness introduced by a wet behind the ears squaddie's
monologue with a very silly scene involving camouflage and some spiky
one-liners. This mix of styles recalls Howard Barker at his most epic,
and opens the door on a series of captivatingly persuasive
performances, from the cold-steel sensuality of Siobhan Redmond's
Gruach and the barrack-room chippiness of Brian Ferguson's Malcolm, to
Siwards' gradual retreat as played with calculated fury by Jonny
Phillips.

Dunsinane is a play rich in ideas and metaphor that lays bare the
loyalties, betrayals and complexities of politics enough to aspire to
state of the nation status. Whose nation, however, is anybody's guess.

The Herald, May 19th 2011

ends

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