|Venue||Date & Time||Price|
|Auditorium, Kwai Tsing Theatre
|$480, $380, $280, $200|
In English with Chinese surtitles
A dramatic sequel to Shakespeare’s Macbeth
“...a work of compelling intelligence, provocation and wit.” The Guardian
“...combines a clever, richly enjoyable bourgeois update of history with a strand of dark, beautiful poetry that disturbs the soul...” The Scotsman
“If it’s riveting spectacle, challenging ideas and human drama you want, this is the show to see.” The Times
“There's a breathtaking intensity to the dialogue...David Greig's writing is both funny and poignant throughout...Beautifully paced, engrossing drama.” Edinburgh Evening News
“A bold, brutal show with some great performances and some really meaty subject matter” British Theatre Guide
“This timely, skilfully executed production will feed the imagination long after the footlights have dimmed.” The Scotsman
The compelling Scottish actress Siobhan Redmond brings Lady Macbeth electrifyingly to life in Dunsinane with the acclaimed Darrell D’Silva as the increasingly unsettled English commander.
David Greig’s exhilarating play is a vision of one man’s attempt to restore peace in a country ravaged by war.
* This programme contains some strong language and violent scenes
* Recommended for ages 12 and above
* Some $200 seats may have restricted view
Act 1: Spring
Under the cover of night, an English army sweeps through Scotland arriving at the castle of Dunsinane. There is a fierce battle and they kill the tyrant king, Macbeth, and take the seat of power.
After the battle, Siward, the English commanding officer, discovers that Lady Macbeth (the Scottish queen known as Gruach) is not in fact dead as he has previously been led to believe.
Siward attempts to install a new king in Scotland; Malcolm. However, many will not accept Malcolm as the king while Gruach still lives. One of Siward’s Scottish allies, Macduff, suggests killing the queen to put an end to the conflict, but Siward is a man of principle and refuses.
Act 2: Summer
Attempting to restore peace and establish Malcolm as the rightful ruler, Siward is beset by a brutal guerrilla uprising and must also deal with discontent amongst his own inexperienced men. Isolated and alone, he is drawn to the charismatic Gruach and a romance develops between them.
King Malcolm calls a parliament and, in a surprise move, whilst addressing this parliament Siward proposes a marriage between Gruach and Malcolm to achieve lasting peace. Both Malcolm and Gruach agree to this and preparations are made for the wedding. However, the night of the wedding Gruach’s men storm the castle and free her, killing several of Siward’s men in the process.
Act 3: Autumn
Siward realises that the Queen’s son and heir is still alive and puts all his efforts into finding him and the queen, against Malcolm’s advice and wishes.
After much bloodshed, Siward’s men capture Lulach (the queen’s son) and he is killed. Siward believes that this will now put an end to the conflict, but Malcolm disagrees.
Act 4: Winter
Siward travels the length and breadth of a snow-covered Scotland, compelled to return Lulach’s body to Gruach. When at last he finds her, the queen is holding a baby who she claims is Lulach’s child. She refuses Siward’s plea to make peace with England and instead tells him Lulach’s son will be the next true king of Scotland…
After the dictator falls: tracing the steps of Gruach
by Jackie McGlone
In his essay, A Philosophical Enquiry Into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757), the great parliamentarian and philosopher Edmund Burke argued that we like to go to violent plays for the same reason that people went to hangings; not because violence improves us but because it interests us, as long as it’s happening to someone else.
There is no bloodier play in the Shakespearean canon - with the exception of Titus Andronicus - than The Tragedy of Macbeth. “And yet Macbeth is a play that I would happily sit through on a weekly basis,” says David Greig, author of Dunsinane, a magnificent ‘sequel’ to Shakespeare’s version of the life and death of the Celtic warrior-king and his ‘fiendlike’ queen.
Greig was inspired to write Dunsinane after seeing a production of Macbeth at Dundee Rep. “I really like the play,” he confesses. “I like the narrative of it and I love seeing different actors playing it. I also admire the space it gives actors to explore these two archetypal figures, particularly Lady Macbeth.” He remembers seeing five or six productions in the UK in rapid succession, always wanting the play to carry on, longing to see part two. “I kept wondering, ‘What happens after the dictator falls?’”
Dunsinane is Greig’s ‘ response’ to that question. “If Macbeth is about the toppling of a dictator, then we see in it a mirror of the Romanian dictator Ceausescu or Gaddafi, say, and the really interesting question is what happens next,” Greig explains, adding that he began writing as Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq crumbled. A great deal of violence was actually happening to other people, not only in Iraq but in Afghanistan. Tragically, the continuing unrest and bloodshed in the Middle East makes the timeless Dunsinane even more timely today. As Greig notes: “Civil wars are always with us.”
If Macbeth is ‘the Scottish play’, then Dunsinane reverses that - it’s a play about English people. It tells of an English garrison trying to survive in a hostile land, just as our ‘peacekeeping’ forces have struggled in distant lands of late. When Greig’s play begins, Macbeth is dead. The queen has not taken her own life. She is very much alive and she certainly has not ‘unsexed’ herself. We encounter an icily regal woman, who is cleverly playing the occupying army, led by the aristocratic Siward (Earl of Northumbria), at various complex games while carving up clan allegiances.
“And this is where, I think, events in Syria are relevant,” says Greig. “What interests me is this impulse to do good which can often end up causing as much or, indeed, more bloodshed. In Dunsinane, Siward doesn’t begin by wishing to cause harm - he believes himself to be doing the right thing. I’m actually fond of Siward, a man of action who finds himself in a confusing situation. He ends up mired in trouble and even more violence. The sad thing is, in war, one man’s downfall is the downfall of many.
“Bizarrely, when I began writing the play, which tells a story but is also a speculation, I didn’t know that this desire to do the right thing would become increasingly relevant. ‘We must do something,’ we say when we see what is happening in Syria and many other countries. This desire to ‘do’ is both attractive and dangerous.”
Attractive and dangerous is, of course, a perfect description of Lady Macbeth, wicked power behind the throne. But here’s a thought to conjure with. I ask Grieg, who has adapted Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, currently playing to packed houses in London’s West End, how surreal it is to go from that deliciously dark world to the dark drama of Dunsinane. “It’s funny, but Willy Wonka [eccentric chocolatier and maverick recluse] is actually a very Shakespearean character,” responds Greig. “He’s a huge character - and that is very appealing to me. I really like approaching characters who have mythologies about them, characters that you can’t quite get to the bottom of - whether that’s Willy Wonka or Lady Macbeth. There’s the same appeal, to try to explore them further.”
So who was this woman who, surely for the first time ever, has been spoken of in the same breath as Willy Wonka? Who was the woman who married a king who murdered his way to the throne, but brought regime change and peace to Scotland in brutal times?
The academic, historian and broadcaster, Fiona Watson believes that we can’t lay all the blame on Shakespeare for the demonising of the Macbeths. The king’s posthumous reputation had been bloodied, besmirched and blackened by Scotland’s mythmakers - early practitioners of the black art of spin - long before an Englishman dramatised his tragic rise and fall.
In her scholarly, ‘factional’ biography, Macbeth: A True Story*, Watson points out that Shakespeare’s Macbeth bears no resemblance to the king who ruled between 1040 and 1057/8. “It is difficult to exaggerate how great an injustice history has inflicted on him and his queen, although Shakespeare was merely repeating, with some of his own embellishment, what was already being said by the Scots themselves,” she says.
Macbeth’s queen was Gruoch - Gruach in Dunsinane - great-great-great-granddaughter of Malcolm I. Macbeth had married her after slaughtering her first husband, Gillacomgain of Moray, Macbeth’s cousin and father of her son, Lulach. Is her image as a virago a farrago of lies? Why is it that she seems more of a monster than Macbeth? And why is it that, most troublingly, of all Shakespeare’s characters the Macbeths seem the most ‘modern’?
“One of the things I love about Gruach is the fact that she doesn’t talk much,” says Siobhan Redmond, who is playing the seductive, flame-haired queen for the third time, finding ever more contemporary resonances in the character. “She’s a woman with secrets, a marvel. It’s admirable that she never wastes words. However, that does not mean that she’s not telling the truth. I think she is always telling the truth but she’s not always telling the whole truth. She’s cool enough to think before she speaks, an enviable quality.”
“Ah, the silence of medieval women!” exclaims Watson, to whose impressive and illuminating researches, Greig insists he’ll be forever indebted, while echoing Watson’s view that the real queen has perhaps been wronged by history even more unjustly than Macbeth himself. Gruoch is conspicuous by her absence from the chronicles and sources scoured by Watson in her intellectually rigorous determination to fill in the ‘gaping crevasses’ in our knowledge about Macbeth’s 17-year reign.
Do not, however, be tempted to interpret Gruoch’s absence as indicative of a weak and submissive personality, warns Watson, pointing to the uniqueness of Gruoch’s only recorded foray into public life. She was named with her husband in documents relating to the gift of land to the Culdee monastic community of St Serf’s, an island in Loch Leven, Fife. “An undeniable hint that this doubly royal woman played an active role both in her marriage and in public life more generally,” Watson writes, stressing that Gruoch made a political match with Macbeth. Her first husband had been murdered by him. She and her fatherless son needed a strong protector; Macbeth fitted the bill perfectly.
Was Macbeth’s queen mad, bad and dangerous to know?
“I think today that when women get to a certain age we’re often described as ‘mad,’ but I do think she’d have made an excellent warrior herself,” Redmond believes. “One thing Gruach does not do is ask for anybody’s approval, despite her awful circumstances - she is, after all, a prisoner of war but she’s a politician, too.”
Greig says: “Once you take another point of view of Macbeth himself from Shakespeare’s, then you have to think again about this woman, who has been painted as monstrous. You have to recognise that she may have been behaving not only rationally but with honour. I’m not saying that Gruach is a good woman. She’s in a complex situation - and she’s a queen. The real woman came from a very important clan - and this is where Fiona was so helpful - while Macbeth emerged from nowhere. It’s that discovery that made me actually rethink the play, that and the fact that when rehearsals began, we were embroiled in Afghanistan. So, I see Gruach as a woman of authority, but I also wanted her to have her own story.
“Of course it’s cheeky to write a sequel to a great Shakespeare play, but I wanted to reclaim a bit of our history, and that’s how I feel about Gruach. I’m reclaiming her, too, although there’s a cheekiness in saying, ‘Well, maybe Lady Macbeth was a bit more like this.’ I don’t think that she’s a silent woman - indeed, that’s evident in the final confrontation between Gruach and Siward, when she releases invective upon him, which feels like a curse. The war is embedded and it will not go away so I was interested in her ability to call that up - her very real power to lay a curse.”
*Macbeth: A True Story, by Fiona Watson (Quercus)
Jackie McGlone is a freelance feature writer
This article was first published in August 2013
by Jonathan Melville
Want to find out what happened to Rick and Ilsa after the closing moments of Casablanca? Ever wondered how the Wicked Witch spent her days before Dorothy arrived in The Wizard of Oz? Keen to see how the simians took over in Planet of the Apes?
Answers can be found in Michael Walsh’s 1998 novel, As Time Goes By, Gregory Maguire’s 1995 book (and West End musical), Wicked and 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, just three of the numerous sequels, prequels and reboots that have proliferated in recent years.
These days we’re used to scanning cinema listings and seeing follow-ups to a hit film we probably weren’t that interested in the first time around, while a stroll around a bookshop inevitably reveals a new instalment in a teen vampire franchise or the latest case for a quirky New York pathologist / psychiatrist / district attorney turned PI.
Sequels can be worth making. Pixar’s Toy Story 3 is regularly touted as being as good, if not better, than its predecessors. Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, a trilogy of romantic dramas starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Céline, are adored by their fans in equal measure.
Too often a sequel is forced upon filmmakers by studios looking to capitalise on good box office, but what connects the above examples is a desire by their creators to wait until the time is right to tell the next part of their character(s) story, rather than simply making a quick cash grab.
The makers of the Toy Story franchise knew that the audience cared for Woody, Buzz and co and wanted to spend more time in their company, allowing them to watch in ‘real time’ as Andy grew up and grew out of his plastic pals. In the Before... films, Jesse and Céline’s conversations were the results of years of shared lives and experiences, feeling genuine as a result.
At the other extreme, you only have to look at Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace (1999), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), or A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) to see what can happen when cash comes before scruples. Forget what made the original so well loved and you risk alienating the very people who helped make it a success.
If I’ve avoided mentioning the notion of sequels in theatre up to this point, that’s because the medium remains relatively untarnished by the phenomenon, though they do exist.
Shakespeare was known to dabble with sequels in his history plays, while Falstaff appears in Henry IV Parts I and II and the later The Merry Wives of Windsor. In musical theatre, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-running The Phantom of the Opera gained a follow-up with 2010’s Love Never Dies.
One of the reasons for there not being a great amount of theatrical sequels is that it can often be difficult to see the first instalment of a production. It’s simple enough to pick up a copy of Iron Man on DVD before heading out to see the latest sequel, but nipping out to catch a tour of an obscure Russian play could be difficult.
Which brings us to David Greig’s bold decision to make his way up Dunsinane Hill and into the lives of characters known the world over for more than 400 years.
In Macbeth, we’re faced with a play staged for centuries and put on film numerous times. Endlessly quotable, it’s still one of the most accessible of Shakespeare’s works. There’s also the incomparable Lady Macbeth, the template for strong fictional female characters through the ages.
Greig transports us to a Scotland where the King may be dead, but his wife is still scheming and the English are wondering just what they’ve got themselves into north of the Border. They’re an occupying force in a strange land, one which isn’t quite as welcoming as they’d expected.
As with any great play, Dunsinane works on different levels. Those who want a straightforward story will find one in the relationship between Gruach (Lady Macbeth), Siward and those around them. Dig deeper and parallels between events in Dunsinane and those in present day Afghanistan are easy to find, ensuring the play has an added relevance to modern audiences.
It also helps that Greig is himself a Scot, bringing with him some local perspective on the characters, their motives and the politics unique to the country.
Dunsinane may be as close to an ‘official’ sequel as it’s possible to get, but anyone overly concerned that Shakespeare is being compromised should remember that the original is still available and waiting to shock, enthrall and intrigue audiences for generations to come.
Jonathan Melville, freelance arts journalist - twitter.com/jon_melville
This article was first published in August 2013
Playwright: David Greig
Director: Roxana Silbert
Designer: Robert Innes Hopkins
Composer and Sound Designer: Nick Powell
Lighting Designer: Chahine Yavroyan
Movement Director: Anna Morrissey
Cast: George Brockbanks, Daisy Chute, Helen Darbyshire, Ewan Donald, Darrell D'Silva, Calum Finlay, Keith Fleming, Tom Gill, Arthur McBain, Matt McClure, Siobhan Redmond, Paul Westwood
Darrell D’Silva as Siward
Darrell trained at the Drama Centre London.
His previous theatre work includes Anthony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, King Lear, A Winter’s Tale, Camino Real, The Spanish Tragedy, Troilus and Cressida, A Month In The Country, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry VIII , Dr Faustus, The Drunks, Little Eagles, Hecuba (Royal Shakespeare Company), The Rose Tattoo, Tales From The Vienna Woods, Closer, Royal Hunt Of The Sun, Further Than The Furthest Thing (National, London), Hedda Gabler (Old Vic), Public Enemy, Six Characters In Search Of An Author (Young Vic), Children's Children (Almeida), The White Devil (Menier Chocolate Factory ), Paradise Lost (Northampton ), Franco Zeffirelli's Production of Absolutely! (Perhaps) (Wyndhams Theatre), Antarctica (Savoy), Romeo and Juliet, Three Musketeers (Sheffield Crucible).
His television work includes Top Boy, Criminal Justice, Spooks, Prime Suspect, Out Of The Blue, Messiah, Krakatoa: The Final Days, Eleventh Hour, Lawless, Queen of Swords, Wokenwell and A Great British Sex Scandal.
His film work includes Northmen: A Viking Saga, Montana, Closer To The Moon, Dirty Pretty Things, Jimmy's End, His Heavy Heart and Song.
Darrell is an Associate Artist at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Siobhan Redmond as Gruach (Lady Macbeth)
Siobhan is an Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Siobhan trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Siobhan’s work for the National Theatre of Scotland includes the 2011/2013 tours of Dunsinane (with Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh); The House of Bernarda Alba and Mary Stuart.
Other theatre credits include: Richard III, King John, Twelfth Night, The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing and The Spanish Tragedy (Royal Shakespeare Company); The President Has Come to See You, Death Tax and Untitled Matriarch Play (Open Court, Royal Court); Doctor Faustus (West Yorkshire Playhouse / Citizens, Glasgow); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare’s Globe); The Prince of Homburg (Donmar); Dido, Queen of Carthage (National, London); Perfect Days (Traverse, Edinburgh / Vaudeville, London); An Experienced Woman Gives Advice (Royal Exchange, Manchester) and The Trick Is to Keep Breathing (Tron, Glasgow / Royal Court, London).
Television work includes Case Histories, Bob Servant, The Town, Benidorm, The Smoking Room, The Catherine Tate Show, The High Life and Between the Lines.
Film work includes Beautiful People, Karmic Mothers, Captives, Duet for One and Latin for a Dark Room.
Radio work includes nine series of McLevy for Radio 4.
Recently she has narrated Noyes' Fludde with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and The Snow Queen with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to drama.
National Theatre of Scotland
The National Theatre of Scotland has been entertaining audiences at home and beyond since February 2006. As Scotland’s national theatre, it works collaboratively with the best companies and individuals to produce and tour world class theatre. Its ambitions are simple: to create work that excites and challenges audiences and which makes Scotland proud. With no building of its own, the company’s theatre takes place in the great buildings of Scotland, and also in site specific locations, airports and tower blocks, community halls and drill halls, ferries and forests. The company has performed to over one million people across four continents. All of Scotland is its stage, and from Scotland it performs to the world.
Royal Shakespeare Company
Since it opened its doors in 1961, the Royal Shakespeare Company has been inviting the most talented and influential theatre makers to do their best work. During those five decades, it has produced plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries alongside classics and new plays, with the classical and the contemporary enriching each other every step of the way. It welcomes more than a million visitors to its Stratford-upon-Avon theatres each year and it tours to London, Newcastle upon Tyne, around the UK and across the world.
Running time is about 2 hours 40 minutes with a 20-minute intermission.
Latecomers will not be admitted until the intermission or a suitable break in the programme.
Tickets available from 21 February onwards at all URBTIX outlets, on Internet and by Credit Card Telephone Booking.
Half-price tickets available for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and the minder, full-time students, and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients.
(Limited tickets for CSSA recipients available on a first-come-first-served basis)
10% discount for every purchase of 4-9 standard tickets; 15% for 10-19 standard tickets; 20% for 20 or more standard tickets.
Credit Card Telephone Booking: 2111 5999
Internet Booking: www.urbtix.hk
Programme Enquiries: 2268 7325
Ticketing Enquiries: 3761 6661
Credit Card Telephone Booking: 2111 5999
Internet Booking: www.urbtix.hk
The presenter reserves the right to substitute artists and change the programme should unavoidable circumstances make it necessary
The content of this programme does not represent the views of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department