Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Dunsinane
Shakespeare Theatre Company

Also see Susan's review of Godspell


Siobhan Redmond and Darrell D'Silva
Everyone knows William Shakespeare's story of Macbeth: how he murdered the king who trusted him, seized the Scottish throne with the help of his ambitious wife, but was destroyed by his overreach and cruelty. Most people haven't thought about the next chapter—but that's the blistering, immersive story the National Theatre of Scotland and the Royal Shakespeare Company have brought to the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, DC.

Playwright David Greig's Dunsinane tells a story that manages to be ancient and contemporary at the same time. The story may involve English troops attempting to shore up a Scottish king in the 11th century, but some things never change: nation building, factionalism, decisions based on unreliable intelligence, soldiers who literally can't speak the same language as the people they have been sent to help, anger at the "ungrateful" natives. As one character says, "The only settled kingdom is one where everyone is dead."

The play begins with a vivid Shakespearean image—the invading troops "bringing Birnam Wood to Dunsinane" by camouflaging themselves with tree branches—before shifting to a different perspective. Malcolm (Ewan Donald), son of the king murdered by Macbeth, is rather effete; he doesn't fight for the crown, he has troops commanded by the English general Siward (Darrell D'Silva) to do that for him. Siward's soldiers have a dark, almost Monty Pythonesque sensibility as they stab, slash, and shoot arrows at the remnants of Macbeth's supporters. (The production includes some grisly moments of battlefield surgery.)

The primary complication is that Macbeth's widow Gruach (Siobhan Redmond) has not killed herself as the English believed. She's as fierce as ever, determined that her son (by her first husband, whom Macbeth killed) should rule instead of Malcolm. Redmond's portrayal is full of shimmering surfaces and hidden depths; she uses her words, her rich Gaelic accent, and her beauty to captivate and manipulate the men around her.

Director Roxana Silbert masterfully controls both the big picture of armies and the intimate scenes among the soldiers and between parents and children. Robert Innes Hopkins' simple set uses a rough set of stone stairs and a large Celtic cross to represent the vastness of battlefields and castles. Three musicians (cello, guitar, percussion) stand just offstage, maintaining power and tension through hard-edged music composed by Nick Powell.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
The National Theatre of Scotland and the Royal Shakespeare Company present
Dunsinane
February 4th - 21st, 2015
By David Greig
Sergeant and Scottish Lord: George Brockbanks
Gruach's Attendant and Hen Girl: Helen Darbyshire
Siward: Darrell D'Silva
Malcolm: Ewan Donald
Macduff: Keith Fleming
The Boy Soldier: Tom Gill
Eric the Archer: Toyin Omari-Kinch
Egham: Alex Mann
English Soldier: Arthur McBain
Scottish Soldier, Scottish Lord and English Soldier: Matt McClure
Gruach's Attendant and Gaelic Singer: Mairi Morrison
Gruach: Siobhan Redmond
Directed by Roxana Silbert
Harman Center for the Arts, Lansburgh Theatre
450 7th St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


Photo: Ka Lam


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