David Greig comes to Heriot’s

Members of S3 were honoured when David Greig, one of Britain’s foremost contemporary playwrights, came in to talk to us on 1st June, 2011. We had just seen his latest play, Dunsinane, which has been showing in the Lyceum theatre after its success in London. The play is a sequel to Macbeth, the Shakespeare play we have been studying this year, and is set just after the downfall of Macbeth, after his castle is taken by the English. It focuses on the experience of a young English soldier, whose naivety and expectations of victory are shattered by the reality that he finds in Scotland, and also on his superior, Siward, the English general who plays a minor role in Shakespeare’s play, but who is one of the main characters in David Greig’s.

David discussed the relevance of his play to recent events, and showed us how Dunsinane was analogous with the war in Iraq. Greig referred back to how in Dunsinane the English occupiers expected to be welcomed as liberators in Scotland, but were actually seen as the new oppressors. What we had seen in the play concerning the English expectations of prosperity and civilisation being incompatible with the realities of Scottish life was made more poignant to us by its similarity with how Britain had originally seen its mission in Iraq and how different it was in reality – especially when Iraq’s complex divisions and allegiances all came to the fore once Saddam Hussein was toppled from power.

The playwright also talked to us about the creative process he goes through when writing a play. We learned that the momentary snapshot that gives life to a play is the most important idea, on which one can build the rest of the drama. He talked to us about how one should keep that image in one’s mind all the time while writing a play, and try to remain faithful to it, saying “Ninety per cent of writing a play is keeping true to that first glimpse”. This was very helpful to us, especially as we were currently working on creative pieces ourselves.

We are very grateful to David Greig for coming in to talk to us. It has been a fascinating insight into playwriting and creative work in general, teaching us both how to produce it and how to enjoy it.

Report by Francis Kerrigan (S3)

David Greig and Mr Wyllie

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