Dunsinane – Hamsptead Theatre

Well theatre professionals see Macbeth as a cursed play so its brave of the RSC to stage a new sequel of the dreaded Scottish Play.

It turns out however to be a brave and bold move, in David Griegs’ epic Dunsinane they have found a play that not only adds something to the Bards original but also stand alone in its own right.

Never mentioned by name in this show the ‘Tyrant’ Macbeth has been overthrown – for those who recall his proclamation of his safety until Burnam wood came to Dunisnane will see the line ‘you be a tree’ take on a whole new significance. Although Macbeth may have perished Lady M’s demise has been prematurly reported and she is very much alive. Gruach – for that is she is still very much the power behind the throne and is coldly planning her restoration to her rightful place as Queen – something incumbent ruler Malcolm may have problems with.

Although a fine company piece (with some strong support of local youth actors in the ensemble roles) it is the two crowns that stand out – Siobhan Redmond’s passionate Gruach and Brian Ferguson’s chilling Malcolm. Both roles could easily be overplayed but in these hands are delivered with a cunning restraint.

In a departure for Hampstead Theatre the auditorium is reconfigured to echo the RSC’s Courtyard – while it does allow Robert Innes Hopkins’ craggy set to thrust into the auditorium – it does lead to some sight line problems and a question on if it is really necessary.

Evocative lighting and effective use of Gaelic music create some stunning set pieces – no more effective than an emotional climax, beautifully staged against the driving snow of the highlands.

This is a piece that stands alone as a powerful exploration of the effects of war and invasion – parallels to the modern world anyone? It could have rammed its message home but instead does so with a subtle hand.

Lets hope the RSC gives this production a further life after it’s Hampstead run – it would also be good to see it in a double bill with the Scottish Play with the same creative team/cast – a truly epic experience

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