Filed under: Arts, creativity, theatre | Tags: Afghanistan, alex salmond, David Grieg, Dunsinae, Edinbugh, iraq, Jonny Phillips, macbeth, margaret thatcher, national theatre of Scotland, politics, Roxana Silbert, RSC, scottish war, shakespeare, Siobhan Redmond, the guldf War, the gulf war, The Lyceum, The Royal Lyceum, the snp, tony blair, war
The Godfather Two showed that sequels can better their original by walking the same path but more deftly, building on its foundations with style, wit and great, great writing.
Dunsinane, is technically a sequel but could hardly be described as usurping its predecessor (Macbeth) as David Grieg neatly finds a way of avoiding the direct comparison by writing it in something approaching the modern vernacular.
And so, Macbeth is merely a plot device to set up a thoroughly modern parable on the pursuit of power and the appetite that man (and woman because Lady Macbeth, Gruach, is the hub of all the conflict in this extraordinary play) has for eternal conflict.
“Peace is not the normal state, peace is like the days when the sea is flat calm, the prevailing condition is war.” says King Malcolm (I think, and I paraphrase) to the English commander, and star of the show, Siward played monumentally by Jonny Phillips. And that’s what lies at the heart of this electrifying production; the fact that war is pretty much the need state of those in power, because war makes things happen. And I don’t mean war results in reshaping of civilisation, no, war turns the wheels of industry and is the dynamo for political momentum. The second world war was what got the world’s major economies booming after all. The Gulf War revitalised America’s sluggish economy.
Thatcher knew that when she blasted Argie to kingdom come.
Blair thought he did when he catapulted the UK into the single most futile decade of power-mongering.
However, where Thatcher sensed the mood of the nation and used the Falklands to reignite her popularity Blair just stuck his big bloody size tens in and created an absolute shambles around him. It’s Blair’s approach that drives the narrative of this play because the Post Macbethian 12th Century Scotland is a photofit of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Whilst the English may have assumed that Lady Macbeth (Gruach) left this mortal coil alongside her beloved husband, we soon find out that as the saying goes “to assume is to make an ass out of u and me.” Oh no, Gruach is very much alive and well and, as Queen, she believes her offspring are heir to the throne and by God she’s gonna do her damnedest to give them the chance to take their rightful place – even if that means sleeping with the enemy.
And so, Gruach (a mesmerising, flame haired Siobhan Redmond) emerges as the key political figure in this drama; she calls all the shots and she delivers them in an often tense and powerful dialogue between herself and Siward. Always on the front foot, driving the poor man crazy with both lust and frustration.
Meanwhile, the King of Scotland, Malcolm quietly (weakly?) surveys the scene with an air of weariness and a large degree of slightly camp cynicism, increasingly frustrated by Siward’s inability to strategically manage the conflict. His performance (by Brian Ferguson) is initially hysterically funny but gradually turns colder and more focused as the drama unfolds.
Both the directing (by Roxana Silbert) and the writing by David Grieg are breathtaking. Grieg doesn’t write a script so much as a wholesale political essay on the state of the nation that leaves you almost gasping at its vision and insight. Remember this play was written 18 months before Salmond swept to power in such a way that the state of the Union has never been more open to question in modern times. Surely conflict is a potential outcome.
And it’s the sheer range of this play that impressed me most. Starting out, frankly, like a Monty Python comedy (it really did stir up memories of Life of Brian) it moves gradually through a series of episodes to darker territory. Barely a minute passed in Act One without a chuckle, and often a belly laugh. Act Two starts as it left off, but only for moments before the real meat of the problem is tackled to almost preternatural effect.
Honestly this play reaches right inside of you. It moves along like a runaway Express, charged as it goes by a brilliant folk rock trio that inject pace and punctuation that is echoed by a duet of Gaelic singing lassies. And whilst the ending stutters just a little it’s a lean back moment as the curtain closes and one is transported back into the real world.
Or was what we were watching the real world?
This is Champions League stuff.
I’ve seen several immense performances on the Lyceum stage this year; Stanley Townsend, Peter Forbes and Frances Thorburn in particular, and there have been a number of incredible ensemble casts ; Age of Arousal and Earnest spring to mind.
But this has both.
And this has three, maybe four or five stellar performances; Siobhan Redmond of course, and Jonny Phillips, but so too Tom Gill as the boy soldier, Brian Ferguson as Malcolm and Alex Mann as the hilarious Egham.
Mark my words. They will be talking about this show in hushed tones many years from now.
Filed under: Arts, creativity, Scotland, theatre | Tags: craig armstrong, Edinburgh, lyceum, Philip Pinsky, romeo and juliet, Royal Lyceum, Royal Lyceum theatre, shakespeare, theatre, Tony Cownie
It’s the thing these days to reinvent Shakespeare to the point that the Shakespeare inside is barely recognisable. The Lyceum don’t do this. Two year’s ago the Lyceum’s Macbeth was heavily criticised for this but I really enjoyed it. This year’s Romeo and Juliet by contrast has been lauded by the critics, partly for its lack of denial. Again I really enjoyed it.
What this production does is, for the most part, let Shakespeare’s language wash over you like a spa treatment. Enveloping you in a warm bath of language that’s part familiar, part alien. It’s a very compelling and quite riveting experience.
Blessed with a cast of great quality, director, Tony Cownie makes them sing from the off. Liam Brennan stands out as a monumentally great actor and Will Featherstone is superb as Romeo. Others I cared for to slightly lesser degrees and sadly Juliet was, for me, a bit of a disappointment – not that Kirsty Mackay didn’t put her heart and soul into the performance, she just didn’t engage me. It’s a difficult call as act two is an endless lament on her part and so it’s very easy to overstep the mark to the point that Juliet wails once too often.
Aside from that, this is a truly beguiling theatrical experience. Pjhilip Pinsky’s music was, as ever fantastic , and I thought I recognised the central motif which I’m sure was a nod to Craig Armstrong. Like I said earlier, one feels drawn into a different world that doesn’t need a “message for today”. And it hasn’t got a great deal to say metaphorically, politically, socially; it’s just a great piece of theatre deftly and engagingly handled.
Filed under: Arts, life, stories, theatre | Tags: Allison McKenzie, Edinburgh, Edinburgh Grand Opera, Edinburgh Theatre, Jimmy Chisholm, Joyce Macmillan, Liam Brennan, Lucy Pitman-Wallace, macbeth, Mark Thomson, Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company, reertory theatre, Rep, Roylal Lyceum Theatre Company, shakespeare, Shakespeare's macbeth, The Lyceum, william shakespeare
If you’ve been thinking of going to see this but haven’t quite got round to it you better get your finger out because it ends on Saturday.
And extracting the digit would be a very good idea.
I approached this with no real qualifications and indeed comment on it as a Shakespearean no mark. I have not studied even a page of Shakespeare in my life. I don’t understand the politics (and boy there’s plenty here) the language, the context or the history. Apart from that I am scholarly.
So Joyce Macmillan’s two star review in The Scotsman alarmed me. What was I letting myself in for?
I’ll tell you what. A bloody good night’s entertainment (with the emphasis on bloody).
The staging was magnificent, the lighting, sound design and music; all terrific.
The acting was top notch. Liam Brennan as Macbeth looks like he’s put his heart, soul and every ounce of his being into this role. He looks and sounds exhausted, but that’s because his passion for the part and command of the stage and the role are quite remarkable. Allison McKenzie, as his complicent wife (complicent in the lust for power that is) belies the fact that she has made her name in River City – a soap that I have thankfully managed to avoid totally, and Jimmy Chisholm in a number of roles is great; particularly in the one comedy scene as the drunken Porter in which he brought the house down.
It’s an intense and very involving theatrical experience and hugely rewarding.
In recalling MacMillan’s review the thing that stood out was her dismissal of the period setting (is modern necessarily good I ask myself?) and her strong criticism of the role of the witches which she, from memory, saw as overly indulgent, overpowering and ham fisted. Me? I thought they were an imaginative and thrilling part of the whole.
Please see it if you have the chance.
It brought back memories of my one and only Shakespearean involvement, in the chorus of Verdi’s Macbeth by Edinburgh Grand Opera in the late 80′s. Another superb production featuring one of opera’s least talented practitioners. Moi. But boy did I enjoy it.
So that’s two Macbeth’s and two stonkers. I am lucky indeed.
Filed under: Arts, family, humour, life, Scotland | Tags: lothian youth, lothian youth theatre, musicals, rock musical, romeo and juliet, shakespeare, theatre, william shakespeare, Youth theatre
We went to see this on Friday night, It was the Scottish debut of a new version of Romeo and Juliet, written by Joy Ardy and A W Milburn and it was performed by the Lothian Youth Arts and Musicals Company.
It was magic.
I’m close to youth theatre as a result of my FCT connections and we ‘youth theatrists’ have a snooty way of dismissing others, especially those in our back yard – but I honestly thought this was a great piece of theatre.
The Script/score/libretto is excellent merging, as it does, modern rock/pop with digestible tracts of Wm Shakespeare’s original dialogue.
The music is particularly excellent, which is saying something if you see a musical ‘cold’.
The group were outstanding too. It’s the first time I’ve seen a Lothian Youth show and the first big impact was the size of the cast. Huge. 72 I reckon. But the large stage of Edinburgh’s Churchill Theatre just about coped.
The performances of all the principals were excellent but a few points need made.
Firstly, their age (many were 21) made the performances more mature and I think it was important that they could get their heads round the heavily skewed Shakespearian content.
Secondly, Mercutio and Benvolio were HILARIOUS. I honestly never thought I’d say that about anything Shakespearaen, but they really nailed the humour of the parts and the directors must take some credit for that.
Lastly, both Romeo ( Craig Young) and Juliet ( Alison Corbett) were outstanding. In particular Craig Young who is a major talent.
One negative point. I didn’t like the costumes. Uninspiring and random.
I will certainly attend future Lothian Youth productions as it was a great night out.