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Dunsinane (Birmingham)

Jenna Harvey reviews the touring production of Dunsinane at the Birmingham Rep after its successful run at the RSC.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Dunsinane is bold, bloody and brash. The award-winning production is playwright David Greig's sequel to Shakespeare's Macbeth. Directed by Roxanna Silbert, she has wasted little time in exhibiting her own work in her new home as Artistic Director of Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

The play intertwines the stories of Gruach (Lady Macbeth) and Siward, an English General fronting the Army's occupation north of the Scottish border. Though the "tyrant" Macbeth is dead, Scotland is far from being at peace. As Gruach quietly schemes, Siward and his men fall victim to both her charms and false intentions.

The plays twists and turns, full of unrest and bloodshed that resonate with present-day Iraq and Afghanistan, allowing the audience to interpret events subjectively. Greig's use of language is simple, yet effective. Shakespearian tongue is avoided, but both curses and vulgar expressions create a poetry of their own.

With the most beautiful use of voice in the form of Gruach's attendants, we see motives collide. Love, hate, peace, war, money, family, protection, and pride are recurring themes. Is peace an interruption to war? Can a conflict of interest ever be fully resolved? Is to win, to succeed? Thought provoking, Dunsinane is both humorous and profound; an effective combination that leaves a lasting impression.

The band, situated stage left, do not fit as well as they once did on a balcony of The Swan Theatre at the RSC where I previously saw the play, nor do the stellar cast have quite so much freedom as they did on the thrust stage. Special mention should be given to Tom Gill, whose young and impressionable boy soldier plays testament to so many representing their countries in conflicts today.

- Jenna Harvey