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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp London Review
by Lizzie Loveridge
Rona Munro's meticulous picture of prison life encompasses the developing relationship between the two women and their interaction with two members of the prison staff called simply Guards One (Ged McKenna) and Two (Helen Lomax). In a plot which seems to resemble a murder mystery Munro draws the audience into guessing what may have actually happened. But unlike a murder mystery there are no easy answers here, no neat explanation but an unequivocal picture of the consequences of a single act of violence. The quality of writing and the descriptive passages of what life is like in prison are impressive, almost poetic in places. You can hear Rona Munro's experience as a writer of radio plays.
The character of the mother is well played by Sandy McDade. Nervous, startled and institutionalised, with no visitors and only a few plants for company, she has to learn how to communicate with her own daughter. Although she is vulnerable she is also devious. Fifteen years inside lead her to want vicarious pleasure in hearing an account of her daughter's evening out. "You're better than television." she says in her thirst for second hand experience. She describes her relationship with the warders, her alienation, "After fifteen years they own me, I'm a piece of Playdough for them." The daughter, who has been brought up by her father's mother, is a successful business woman, divorced, conventional but very curious about her mother. She keeps her visits to the prison secret from her friends and workmates. It is like a love story, the way these two women get involved and then tear apart.
All four performances are very good. Sandy McDade's androgynous lifer is hauntingly obsessive. The scene where she is on hunger strike is as convincing as it is disturbing. Louise Ludgate's naïve but anxious to please, daughter in suit and high heels is travelling into unknown territory, the price of a few memories that we all take for granted. The female guard, Helen Lomax, has been close to Fay as she herself went through a broken marriage but she is always the uniformed officer, always aware of the "us" and "them" dichotomy. The male guard, "the Fox in the Henhouse" Ged McKenna, is more accepting, more phlegmatic, less involved than the women characters.
The prison set is institutionalised grey wood where it should be metal but with a steel staircase and the clanging of doors sound effects are authentic. I liked the director's placing of the guards on different levels using the stairs, always listening in the background. Whilst Iron may not be as exciting or as violent as HBO's Oz it is nonetheless a powerful piece of writing about the effects of imprisonment on the female psyche.
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
At This Theater
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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