Lady Macbeth to take centre stage in Edinburgh theatre’s new twist on Shakespearean tale

One of Scotland's leading playwrights is to put Lady Macbeth centre stage in a reimagined version of the classic Shakespearean tale.

Zinnie Harris’s “retelling” of the 17th-century tragedy will get a world premiere at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh in 2023.

Harris will be writing and directing Macbeth (an undoing), which will see Shakespeare’s original text reworked to focus on Lady Macbeth as a battle for the throne of Scotland unfolds.

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    An official announcement on Harris’s play said it would portray Lady Macbeth as her “strength of will holds steady until the bitter end”.

    It is part of a programme of new shows announced by the theatre for the first half of 2023 – all of which have creative teams led by women.

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    The line-up also features You Bury Me, a new play set in Cairo, which focuses on a group of six young Egyptians, and a new version of Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s epic love story Anna Karenina.

    Edinburgh-based Harris has previously brought reimagined versions of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi and the classic Greek trilogy Oresteia to the stage.

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    The Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh will be staging the world premiere of Zinnie Harris's Macbeth (an undoing) in 2023. Picture: Mike Hume

    She said: “I’ve always loved the story of Macbeth. I remember doing it at school, as so many of us did.

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    "But I’ve always had a curiosity about Lady Macbeth and how, for the first half of the play, she is the person saying ‘come on, we’ve got to do this, be a man’.

    "I’ve always been really curious about that journey and trajectory, and what happened to this woman that was going from someone who was seemingly holding it together, while her husband was almost disappearing into this fear of the supernatural and guilt, and then somehow it kind of catches up with her.

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    "I wanted a way to communicate to the audience that it is partly Shakespeare’s original text, but will also have partly a bit of Harris in there.

    Royal Lyceum Theatre artistic director and playwright Zinnie Harris, an associate artist at the venue, which will play host to her new play Macbeth (an undoing) in 2023. Picture: Michael Gillen
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    "The original is called The Tragedy of Macbeth and I started to think about the ways in which the characters start to fragment.

    “This sort of idea of Macbeth (the undoing) seemed to sort of speak to me, partly talking about the characters themselves, but partly about my way of working with the text, and taking the weave from Shakespeare and starting to thread it in a slightly different way.”

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    David Greig, artistic director at the Royal Lyceum, said: “Zinnie is well known for reworking classic texts – creating space for their female characters to shine – and Macbeth (an undoing) is no exception.

    "This is the Macbeth you know, but with a twist you haven’t seen before – Lady Macbeth deservedly taking centre stage.”

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    Royal Lyceum artistic director David Greig and playwright Zinnie Harris.

    You Bury Me, will see Katie Posner direct writer Ahlam’s debut play, which won the Women’s Prize for Playwriting two years ago and focuses on a group of friends navigating friendship, loss and forbidden love.

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    Playwright Lesley Hart and director Polina Kalinina will be “reinventing and reimagining” Anna Karenina, the Tolstoy novel first published in 1878, from the original Russian text of the book.

    The Lyceum will also be launching Linda McLean’s new play Castle Lennox, which is inspired by the experiences of people sent to the hospital in East Dunbartonshire between the 1930s and the 1990s.