Theatre company to stage Macbeth in Birnam Wood

A DRAMA company is to stage a performance of Macbeth in the very wood which heralded the character's demise.

The Birnam Oak. Picture: Ian Rutherford

In Macbeth, the witches whom the tragic Scottish king consults over his future tell him he shall “never vanquish’d be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him”.

But he is undone when his enemies use tree branches from Birnham Wood, in Perthshire, to camouflage their advance.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Now the the Oxford Shakespeare Company (OSC) is to present Shakespeare’s “Scottish play” in the shadow of the Birnam Oak, which is the centrepiece of the ancient wood.

New York-based OSC will hold three back-to-back, free, open-air performances, on June 4, weather permitting

Ron Song Destro, who will play King Duncan - whom Macbeth murders in Act II, despite his doubts and a hallucination of a bloody dagger -said today: “The famed Birnam Oak is said to be the sole surviving remnant of the great Birnam wood of King Macbeth’s reign.

“There is always something very special about performing the plays of Shakespeare on the very ground where each of the characters’ true-life counterparts has trod.

“Having fought Richard III on Bosworth Field where he was slain, and Henry V on the battlefield of Agincourt - where we reverently dedicated our performance to the thousands of souls still buried under the ground - inhabiting the 1,000-year old wood of Birnam, so prominently featured in Macbeth, is going to be a unique thrill, especially since we are performing in the torch-lit woods at night.”

The shows will be held at 6, 8 and 10pm in front of the tree on Saturday June 4. Should it rain, the plays will be held at the same times on June 5.

In April, tree surgeons warned that the core of the Birnham Oak has rotted, but its heavy branches are continuing to grow, and the resulting leverage is threatening to tear the weakened trunk apart.

The Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust is looking at ways of shortening the branches without changing the appearance of the tree, but at the same time taking pressure off the trunk.