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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dunsinane, theatre review

Published in the Guardian


Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
Four stars

The battle appears to be won. Some kind of peace is taking hold. But the war has thrown up unforeseen problems. The word goes out: "Tell the men we'll be in Scotland a little longer than expected."

And suddenly we are not only in 11th-century Perthshire, where the English army is seeking to impose order after the death of Macbeth, but also in a modern-day Iraq or Afghanistan. In David Greig's brilliant Shakespeare sequel – funny one minute, knotty the next – we find a peace-keeping force making a chaotic situation worse thanks to the well-meaning zeal of a Tony Blair-style commander.

Soldiers get killed, women commit suicide, captives refuse to speak. This occupation will indeed take longer than expected. The more the English try to get to grips with this alien land – its awkward geography, its hostile climate, its complex clans and affiliations – the more clumsy their efforts to tame it look. The greater their level of misunderstanding, the more an audience in Scotland finds itself empathising with the occupied nations of the Middle East.

Roxana Silbert's gripping RSC production, revived by the National Theatre of Scotland, shows the English army practicing an extreme form of passive aggression. "Your peace is just another word for you winning," says one character, exposing the value judgments behind even the most enlightened attempt by one nation to control another.

Despite this, Greig's vision is not one-sided. Jonny Phillips's English General Siward may be out of his depth, but Siobhan Redmond's Gruach (AKA Lady Macbeth) is frighteningly obstinate in her clan loyalty, while Brian Ferguson's King Malcolm is fiendishly slippery in his mastery of Scotland's internal politics. The result is an irresolvable drama about an irresolvable conflict – a work of compelling intelligence, provocation and wit.

© Mark Fisher 2011

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