In a nutshell: Macbeth, the aftermath. Written in 2010, and originally premiered at the Hampstead Theatre with the RSC, Dunsinane returns to its homeland a year prior to the looming Independence Referendum. As a result, I found it incredibly difficult not to watch it as one big political allegory.
I’ll say this now: I think this is another one of those ‘I’m not with the band’ moments. As a whole, the plot was sound and there were many moments I really enjoyed. Malcolm (played by Sandy Grierson) and his English Army ensemble were brilliant. The music was beautiful, although there were a few occasions where I didn’t follow its purpose. Towards the end it did become a little Reservoir Dogs, however, and I would love to know where Siobhan Redman (Gruach) got her Gaellic accent from.
Fundamentally for me, there were three things I was seriously struggling with in connection with Dunsinane, and it had nothing to do with the script. The first was the ticket price and, ultimately, venue choice (which sparked this entry over a week ago). The first and final night of its run were sold out; everything in between wasn’t. Fair enough. Upon arriving and collecting our tickets, we were told we’d been upgraded from our £20 seats in the Gods to the Dress Circle, their line being that it was deemed ‘too hot’. Code for: no one is paying that price outside of the first and final night.
‘Naaah’, I thought. The Gods have always been a sauna environment, it is a perfectly viable reason. That was until the house lights went down, and I realised there was no one in the front two rows of the entire auditorium. Forty seats no one was prepared to pay shy of £30 for, empty. Awkward.
The second problem I had: what I was meant to walk away with once the play had ended? The conclusion of the piece was embedded in Siward’s (played by Jonny Phillips) continuous struggle of trying to understand why the Scots keep retaliating against him and his army, resulting in unnecessary bloodshed rather than his vision of peace. Gruach tells him if he kills the new heir, Scotland will find another King. If he kills Gruach, they’ll find another Queen.
To me, it seems, the message is that there will always be someone else, a ‘last man standing’ situation. In lieu of the impending Referendum, it appears as a morbid response to the history of Westminster’s rule: you can keep trying to make our country do things your way, but there will always be someone to oppose it. By proposing a referendum, it has opened a window into how Scotland and England deal with their respective country, and whether you like it or not, there are quite a number of differences. But something tells me that’s not what this play was driving at, given that this was written 3 years ago and the Referendum announcement came after.
As my last issue, I have to bring up Redman’s accent again, purely because I genuinely believe it affected how her character was perceived. No native Gaellic speaker I have ever heard sounded Welsh, Jamaican and, at times, South African when speaking English. There is a lilt to the voices of the Highlands and Islands, yes, but it is subtle. Her own Glaswegian tongue is soft enough to pass! Gruach was a powerful, manipulative and an enthralling character to watch, but I had to shut out the voice. Not an easy thing to do if you’re wanting to follow the plot!
Many more of these coming up. I guess this is what happens when you choose a course in Playwriting. Seen anything this week that’s played with your mind?