stoning mary
Royal Court Theatre, London SW1
Opened 5 April, 2005

debbie tucker green doesn’t seem to believe in capital letters. Nor is she so big on narrative, character or conventional dialogue.  She gives just enough to sketch out her figures and an idea of the situation, then creates a sort of voice poem out of which details occasionally emerge.  Sometimes it’s almost haunting. But most of the time her situations are so grim that it’s simply an ordeal.

The Royal Court’s entire stalls area has been floored over; the audience sits in the two circles whilst the action takes place on a vast arena of bright copper-blue grit and rubble.  Other than that, the set consists of one or two simple kitchen chairs.  The cast of eleven remain on stage the whole time; lighting changes take various sub-groups in and out of focus as the three “plot” strands progress.

We see a couple who both have AIDS but only one prescription between them; also the intimidated parents of a child soldier; and a woman visited by her sister as she awaits stoning to death.  Some characters have additional “ego” figures who comment on their and their interlocutors’ words and behaviour.  Gradually, we realise that the three sets of scenes are connected, but you get the feeling that’s incidental.

Words babble away, changing minimally like a sort of vocal techno music.  Some lines from BAFTA nominee Heather Craney, as the child soldier’s mum:
“ hold that – onto that - to have that, into that, to have and to hold that. To have that to hold... Having that to hold on to. Having that.”  Well, gee, I bet we’re all a lot the wiser after that. Lord, it’s grim, even when the lines aren’t this abstract.

Marianne Elliott’s production and Ultz’s design do what they can to create an atmosphere, a specialness, but fundamentally this is a slight, dreary and not all that dramatic piece.  At one point, the condemned Mary lays into all those who didn’t sign her clemency petition: “underclass bitches, overclass bitches...” – I wanted to join in, “...wombling free bitches.”  But that would have been fun. No, no.

Written for Teletext.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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