Byre Theatre, St Andrew’s
For a troubling second, the sound of cameras ricocheting shut midway through Firebrand Theatre’s revival of Frank McGuinness’ searing monologue about one woman’s response to losing her daughter sound like applause. With twelve-year-old Mary caught in the crossfire of inner-city gang warfare, Sal is making a public plea for her killers to own up, blessing them as she does. She’s speaking into a microphone, as actress Janet Coulson does for much of Richard Baron’s production, talking with rapid-fire nervous energy as if doing some kind of stand-up confessional.
As Sal tells it in McGuinness’s painfully of the moment reworking of Greek tragedy, she has fled to a remote Irish island, squaring up to her own pain even as she exiles herself in the sort of safe-house all too familiar in that part of the world. What follows in a performance that flits between light and shade is a meditation on loss, grieving and revenge that’s made all the more shocking by its everyday matter-of-factness. Sal’s world is as empty now as the cottage she’s escaped too, and the headlines on the wall are what now define her.
Co-produced with the Byre Theatre and Heart of Hawick, a slow-burning dislodging of the senses is everything here. There’s the crack of a gun-shot and the echo of a struck match in Jon Beales’ sound design. There’s the way too how, in a certain light, designer Ken Harrison’s newspaper-lined wall looks like a giant pixelated screen. It’s the sort of thing meant to protect the innocent in TV reports like the ones Sal has become so well versed in. Most of all, the smell of sulphur filters through the air as Sal strikes match after match until finally she too is spent.
The Herald, February 5th 2018