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Thursday, 11 February 2010

Theatre - Dunsinane - Hampstead Theatre

Star rating – 7/10

This new RSC play by David Greig takes place after the end of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Macbeth is dead, and the English army are sweeping through Scotland to put a new King, Malcolm on the throne. The English commander Siward, thinks the previous king was a tyrant, and expects to be welcomed by the Scots with open arms. But funnily enough things do not go to plan.

He does not reckon with harsh countryside, the political web he finds, or with the power of the King’s widow, Gruach, brilliantly played by the wonderful Siobhan Redmond. There are obvious parallels with the invasion of Iraq and events following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in this story. Greig wants us to question if an invading army can ever really bring peace.

And it is a very dramatic tale – but a production with which I have a few problems. Firstly, it is a brave person who tries to follow on directly from where the Bard left off – in whatever play they may choose. The complex storyline in Dunsinane only served to remind me of the original brilliance of the master. No one tells ‘em quite like Will. This play has undoubted points of high drama, but in the end the storyline just felt a little too convoluted to ring true. Also, the supposed heroic and noble Siward was rather overplayed by Jonny Phillips, who just ended up as a rather stompy, shouty figure – not really the desired effect at all.

But the back story of the ordinary soldiers was very compelling, and special praise must also go to the wonderful Brian Ferguson, who played the dryly witty Malcolm with such a straight bat that he reminded me of Gregory from the wonderful ‘Gregory’s Girl’. His explanation to Siward of Scots logic and literal pedantry is truly hilarious.

This is a good drama, with some high class acting and wonderful sets, fight scenes and singing, but it suffers somewhat by the inevitable comparison to its forefather.

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