Review by Willard Manus

It’s a pretty risky thing for a modern playwright to take on a sequel to MacBeth, but Scottish playwright David Greig more than rises to the occasion with DUNSINANE, which recently played at Wallis Center for the Performing Arts (as part of its USA tour). Set in 11th-century Scotland, DUNSINANE (which is directed by Roxanna Silbert) unfolds on a bare stage framed by a stack of steps and a trio of musicians who punctuate the action with bursts of Gaelic tunes. We meet MacBeth’s widow, Gruach (Siobhan Redmond), who insists her 15-year-old son is the rightful heir to the Scottish throne. Opposing her is the reigning monarch, Malcolm (Ewan Donald), whose shaky regime is propped up by an invading British army led by a well-meaning general, Siward (Darrell D’Silva). The latter’s humanity is soon tested by the brutal resistance mounted by two warlords (George Brockbank and Matt McClure).

Greig’s main theme is the danger posed by military intervention in a land like Scotland, with its tribal mentality, mountainous terrain and unfamiliar language. Shades of the USA’s experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What also sickens and hardens Siward–and turns him into a vengeful monster–is the rage and savagery of his own men, young soldiers who have been stunned and then corrupted by the violent war they must wage on icy, hostile soil. Equally affected is Gruach, whose rigid beliefs and ambition push her past the edge of reason into madness.

Greig looks at the world of MacBeth in a completely different way from Shakespeare. He is fiercely anti-imperialist and anti- Royalist, but his tragic view of mankind tempers his writing, keeps it from becoming too polemical. The playwright has also benefitted greatly from DUNSINANE’S production values: the acting, directing and stage-craft (lighting, sound, costumes) are all first-rate.

( Coming to the Wallis, May 26- June 7, is SATCHMO AT THE WALDORF, written by Terry Teachout and starring John Douglas Thompson. Visit