Playwright David Greig has written an engrossing drama, full of wit and a wry humour, which combines the horror of war with the underhand scheming of political machination, the devastation of filial loss and the terrible things that can happen when a foreign army intervenes in another country’s affairs.
Set in the unwelcoming highlands of 11th century Scotland the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production boasts a large cast of English soldiers to control and slaughter the foe.
The tyrannical ruler may be dead, but his widow Queen Gruach lives on. Captive in her own castle (but with a continued claim to the throne and, worryingly, a son from a previous marriage still on the run) she’s a serious thorn in the side of Brian Ferguson’s weak but crafty Malcolm, who has returned from England to reclaim the crown snatched from his own murdered father’s head.
You don’t need to know anything about Macbeth to enjoy this imaginative, topical sequel which, through the choric letters of a boy soldier paints a weary picture of becoming a man far from home and with a weapon in your hand.
Siobhan Redmond’s flame-haired Gruach is flirtatious, determined and dangerous as she seduces Jonny Phillips’ gruff English general Siward whose relentless pursuit of peace results in more bloodshed than the money-making enterprises of his amoral lieutenant (Alex Mann’s Egham).
And the unearthly singing of Gruach’s female attendants and a final meeting as the snow falls add a touch of beauty to Roxana Silbert’s intelligent and highly recommended production.
Words: Louise Kingsley
Hampstead, Eton Avenue, NW3 3EU (020 7722 9301) until 6th March (£20-£25) Under 25 – £5