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Looking At Lady Macbeth (Gruach) From A Different Angle in ‘Dunsinane’

Siobhan Redmond as Gruach (Lady Macbeth) In "Dunsinane."

Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2015 – 10:53 PM

It’s a sequel to Macbeth, a parable that illuminates parallels between medieval and present-day political landscapes and—“a big proper classical play about important and difficult issues and deals with them with a great deal of wit”—says Siobhan Redmond, starring as Gruach (Lady Macbeth) of David Greig’s Dunsinane, at The Wallis’ Bram Goldsmith Theatre through Sunday.

“It’s chiefly about what happens to a really good person trying to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number of people,” said Redmond in a phone interview while the show was on tour in Chicago. “In the process, he’s driven to all sorts of extremes he didn’t expect.”

Greig has taken a minor character from Shakespeare’s thriller, as Redmond calls it, and made General Siward (Darrell D’Silva) “the central figure as the good soldier sent to Scotland to topple a tyrant.”

According to his information, it should a be straightforward mission. “Everyone wants the tyrant gone, and his lady’s gone mad and died.”

But in Greig’s sequel, after Siward storms the Castle on Dunsinane Hill and assassinates Macbeth—he comes to learn that not only is Gruach not crazy, but still alive and unwilling to relinquish the throne; not everybody thought he was a tyrant, and her 15-year-old son, rightful successor to power, has escaped. And he as to deal with the situation.

Unable to grasp the alien customs of the country, Siward soon finds his peace mission spinning out of control. “He has to adapt to another culture and learn what that culture is about,” says Redmond.

Playwright Greig, currently represented with The Events at New York Theatre Workshop and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory in the West End, says, “The emotional pull to ‘do the right thing’ is an innate human desire that is universal. That desire, however, is both attractive and dangerous, as the definition of the ‘right thing’ often changes from person to person, country to country.

“Wherever Dunsinane goes, new audiences interpret and bring different context to the play. I’m thrilled that The Wallis is hosting Dunsinane’s American debut, and excited to see how the story is interpreted by the regional audience.”

“It’s a play that seems to be relevant and topical everywhere we’ve played,” says Redmond. The play had a highly successful tour to East Asia and Russia in spring 2014.

“Everyone recognizes the references to current events in Afghanistan and Iraq,” says Redmond. “Examining issues through historical context, is a less loaded way of looking at things, but no less effective. And it’s getting more and more topical every time we do it.”

One moment in the play has Siward, fighting to bring peace to waring clans during an intense guerrilla war, admit to burning a village’s captured adult males to death. After ISIS’s burning of a captured Jordanian pilot, the moment drew gasps from the audience, Redmond remembered.

When Siward tells the intended King Malcolm of the clans, “They hate us because we keep them from fighting each other;” the line drew applause from a Beverly Hills audience.

Redmond didn’t have time to worry about the audacity of a Macbeth sequel. She heard about and received the play at the same time and “was privileged to be asked to do it. I fell in love on the first page,” she says. “I’m delighted it came my way.

She admires Greig’s “clear and elegant modern-day writing, for a play set in 11th century Scotland; and “the daring playwright who enjoys subversiveness with characters audiences feel they know something about and undermining that knowledge and looking at it from from a different angle.”

Redmond, who played Lady Macduff with the Royal Shakespeare Company, says “David Greig’s Lady Macbeth, has more and better jokes.

 In a play described as ”fierce one minute and bitingly funny the next,” Redmond says people are surprised by how funny it is. “It has jokes and tragedy. Something for everybody.”

Greig also includes the Shakespearean characters Macduff and Malcolm, as well as new characters like Siward’s English subordinate Lord Egham and a chorus of English soldiers. “And their lives are as important as the major named characters in Dunsinane, Redmond says. “The play shows what it’s like for little boys away from home at war; fighting in a war they might not believe in and belief isn’t part of the job. Everyone can identify with them and they’re and as irreverent as you’d expect.”

Taking part in the 2011, 2013 and 2014 Dunsinane tours, she’s “come in and out of the play over a five-year period.” As the only one to play the part, she’s anxious to see another actresses take it one. “I’ve never seen the effect of the whole thing,” she says.

The play’s origins come from the Royal Shakespeare Company asking playwrights for works using Shakespeare as a starting point. John Tiffany, director of the National Theatre of Scotland’s acclaimed production of Gregory Burke’s Black Watch (performed at UCLA Live! in 2007) came to see the show and said, “I think, this should be a co-production of both companies,” relates Redmond. It went to Scotland, Stratford-on-Avon and “has gotten bigger and bigger.”

Patricia Wolff, Wallis interim artistic director, said, “Two of the world’s most extraordinary theater companies, have collaborated on a fascinating theatrical premise: What happens after the curtain comes down on Macbeth? The new drama brilliantly straddles the ancient and modern worlds, playing like a cross between Game of Thrones and House of Cards.”

Directed by Roxana Silbert, in addition to Redmond and D’Silva, the cast includes: George Brockbanks, Helen Darbyshire, Ewan Donald, Keith Fleming, Tom Gill, Toyin Omari-Kinch, Arthur McBain, Matt McClure, Alex Mann and Mairi Morrison.

Remaining performances through April 5 are at 8 p.m. through Friday, at 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets, ranging from $29-$110 are available at www.thewallis.org or by calling 310-746-4000 or in person at The Wallis Ticket Services, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. —Steve Simmons

 

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