Dunsinane – Stage Review

We have all had afterthoughts, both in real life and in fictional contexts, in which we might wonder about the ‘what ifs’, or dream up scenarios. We might ponder over a tragedy, or reflect on words.

We consider, and not necessarily that intellectually, the changes of historical landscape after a war for example. We worry about totalitarian rule in faraway lands and pain over violent conducts we read about. Some of us may have considered the lives of Tolkien characters and what happened to Middle Earth in the aftermath, or fascinated, and perhaps a little too long, on the endings of films or TV dramas where conclusion has been deliberately left open.

Playwright David Greig, author of Dunsinane, admitted that he had been inspired to know what happened after Shakespeare’s famous dictator, Macbeth, had died, and in particular, what happened to his ‘bonkers’ wife afterwards, and so proceeded to write this fascinating play.

photography by Richard Campbell
Siobhan Redmond as Gruach and Jonny Phillips as Siward – Photography by Richard Campbell

The tone throughout is atmospheric, sad, and strangely beautiful. The themes Retribution, Symbolism, and Cruelty feature strongly, yet injections of humour balances nicely. There is more than one reference to occult magic, and the hypnotic singing of Gruach’s women, brings parallels with scenes from Macbeth which feature the three mysterious witches.

The play begins and Macbeth is dead. The focus, thereon in, is the fiendish, Queen Gruach (Lady Macbeth) played by Siobhan Redmond. We have other age old characters appearing that we know already, namely the revengeful, Macduff (Lewis Howden) and the now grown up, cynical, Malcolm (Sandy Grierson) who is seen taking up the position of king in this play.

Photography by Richard Campbell
Photography by Richard Campbell

We warm to the characters of the English side. Emphasise with them being sent to some bleak outpost, home sick and unconvinced, and despite their leader Siward’s dogged determination we see him get caught up, and be a victim of, Gruach’s game playing.

The Boy Soldier is Greig’s version of The Chorus. Tom Gill is energetic and lively in his delivery.

Musicians Danny Short, Robert Owen, and Jessica Cox provide on kilter rhythms and play the stunning work of composer, Nick Powell, the music provides calmness, sets brooding undercurrent, and adds emphasis to those riotous moments which rises up.

The best production I have seen in recent months. Recommended.

 5 STARS *****

photography by Richard Campbell
photography by Richard Campbell

Note: Reviewer, Debra Hall, attended the press night showing of Dunsinane on Tuesday 24th September at The REP (Birmingham Repertory Theatre) in an official capacity on behalf of Remotegoat Stage. This review also published here


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