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The Bruce in Ireland

Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh
Three stars

In a muddy bog, Robert The Bruce is crowned king of Scots after crushing the English and claiming the throne as his own. As with history, it is Bruce's younger brother Edward you have to keep an eye on in Ben Blow's speculative reimagining of the Bruce boys post-Bannockburn assault on Ireland, produced here by the Edinburgh-based Black Dingo Productions.

Like a Shakespearian villain on the make, Gerry Kielty's Edward snipes from the sidelines prior to a power-hungry burst of sibling rivalry that sees him left to his own manipulative devices on Irish soil, intent on creating a kingdom of his own. Once in the wilds with his troops, he encounters Failtrail, a young milkmaid who is forced to sing for him before the two face up to the dehumanising realpolitik of power games and become accidental allies,

Director Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir sets all this in the bleakest of landscapes in a meditation on war which sounds at times like a grittily stylised Bruce for the Game of Thrones generation. As bullets fly and the bodycount mounts, Blow's rich and at times very fine exchanges are broken up by Pathe-style archive film footage cut up and recontextualised in such a way to give the play even more of a contemporary kick. The twists and twangs of composer Tom Oakes's broodingly apocalyptic guitar-led underscore enhance the mood even more.

Kielty lends a swagger to Edward in Sigfrusdottir's atmospherically roughshod affair. In the end, both he and Kirsty Ella McIntyre's equally opportunistic Failtrail have the air of outlaws, feasting on the blood of the fallen in order to survive.

The Herald, November 6th 2015

ends

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