There’s something quite winsome about the Scottish première of David Greig’s Dunsinane. Though it appears as a sequel to Shakespeare’s histrionic Macbeth, it’s a chance for director Roxana Silbert to review the nature of empire control, the rebuilding of a kingdom – but to sideline the typical English battle honours, and have a look through a Scottish lens.
After the death of Macbeth, unrest and tribalism still rule throughout 11th-century Scotland. Shadowed by an invading English army, commanding officer Siward (Jonny Phillips) wishes to overthrow Malcolm and insert himself as the new head of state. Yet as his own soldiers begin to rise up and divide amongst him, he takes to the ear of Macbeth’s widow Gruach (Siobhan Redmond) for comfort and solace as the brittle situation around him begins to escalate out of control.
On the face of it, it’s a pertinent task: looking at the intricacies of empire reconstruction. As we pick up our newspapers to read of stringent cutbacks to the NHS, further British invasions into countries across the world and rocketing fuel prices, the cracks in the system lead us to have that exact same conversation. But against the backdrop of Scotland’s overwhelming SNP victory in the elections, the cry for devolution and national independence has come into focus more fervently. It seems a pleasing irony for the Scottish people that Greig’s Siward would find his English soldiers fighting against him and each other, not to mention a chance for the Scottish playwright to explore the theatrical landscape that an English playwright created. It’s an attempt to mystify and distance Scottish culture from the English, metaphorising a cluelessness which the men in Whitehall will never overcome. Though a bit worrying in its anti-English intentions, it certainly parallels the soon-to-come rallying cries for Scottish republicanism and sovereignty, and at the same time, houses an ever-so-tiny middle finger to England. Well, maybe not that tiny.