Nov 22 2021 | By More


There is cathartic release of pent up rage to Lucy Kirkwood’s Maryland, which had a semi-staged, script-in-hand performance at the Southside Community Centre on Saturday and returns in a different production to the Traverse this week.

So there should be. Maryland is Kirkwood’s response to the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa earlier this year. Kirkwood describes her short script, written in just two days, as “a howl”. It is. But it is also a lot more than catharsis.

The cast of Marytown at the Southside Community Centre. Pic Tam Croal

Directed Hilary Spiers, this is a clear and yet turbulent piece which captures the complex mix of emotions which lie beyond the raw anger at the continued murder of women by men – emotions brought to a head by those recent murders which are only two over 100 committed every year in the UK.

In a handful of short fictional scenes, Kirkwood creates a devastating account of the failures and failings which are built into our attitudes to rape on a societal level – and the structural failings of the services which are put there to support women who have been attacked and are vulnerable.

Two women, both coincidentally called Mary, are called into a police station to examine a lineup of photographs of men, to try and identify the one who had attacked them. They interact with two DCs, one female, one male.

Spiers places the performances on a small playing area surrounded on three sides by chairs, on which a chorus of 14 black-clad Furies sit as if they were the audience themselves: the front row of a thrust stage, looking back into the real audience.

community cast

She makes strong use of her community cast, who are drawn from across Edinburgh’s amateur companies. No one person stands out, which is as exactly it should be for a chorus.

In the named roles and carrying their scripts in-hand, but rarely even glancing at them, Torya Hughes and Steph Hammond as two Maries, with Grace Gilbert and Alan Patterson as the two DCs, carve out the short and horrifyingly simple scenes.

Hughes and Hammond catch the sense of fragility of the Maries – growing to anger at the unthinking words of the police. Gilbert and Patterson create equally disturbing characters: casually grating, insensitive to the point of being intrusive, yet never in a way that you might call deliberate.

There might not be much to play with, but all four capture the innate unease of the situation they are in, while suggesting much more than is there in the bald lines of the script. None more so than Grace Gilbert who has the play’s fulcrum line, the one which because of the way she says it both changes your understanding of what is going on and presages what is about to happen.

euphemistic references

Yet in these exchanges the word “rape” is never spoken. Instead there are drifts into silence, muttered “you-knows” and an exhausting sequence of euphemistic references to the “incident”.

Nor is it spoken out loud by the Furies – or indeed is the word murder. In their place there is a real scream. A loud rasping noise which punctuates the Furies’ own caustic commentary on what is happening in front of them.

Between the commentary is the counting out of a list of questions, a “have you ever” of the mundane things which women do. A list which gets increasingly telling while the events in front of them become correspondingly tense.

Spiers’ staging is as excellent as it is simple, even if it is forced on her by social distancing. The stage, stuck at the far side of the hall from the audience, just adds an air of dislocation – like looking down onto a sports ring where a particularly disturbing tag-wrestling bout is taking place.

A stipulation for reviewing this production is that the review should not contain star ratings. To be honest, it doesn’t need them. The work speaks for itself. But then again, so does this particular reading of it. And speaks in a way that will long linger in the subconscious.

All income from the production is being donated to Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre. To donate to ERCC’s Just Giving Page click here.

The Furies:
Irene Beaver, Wendy Brindle, Azza Dafaalla, Marion Donohoe, Cara Gheel, Helen Hammond, Anji Harkness-Robertson, Yuke Huang, Val Lennie, Anne Mackenzie, Alice Pelan, Eirini Stamkou, Helen Trew and Bev Wright.

Running time: 35 minutes

Southside Community Centre, 117 Nicolson Street EH8 9ER
Produced by Hilary Spiers, supported by Art27scotland.
Sat 20 Nov 2021
Two performances: 7pm, and 8.30pm.

Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge St, Edinburgh, EH1 2ED
Wed 24, Thurs 25 November 2021
Evenings: 7pm; Matinee Thurs: 1pm.
Produced by Traverse Theatre Company and directed by Kolbrún Björt Sigfúsdóttir.

Tickets and details: Book here.
All proceeds go to: Edinburgh Women’s Aid and Shakti Women’s Aid.

Maryland was first performed at the Royal Court in London. Further details of the play with a link to read the script are available on its website here.

The cast of Marytown on set at the Southside Community Centre. Pic: Tam Croal.


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