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Iron

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
The pains of confinement inside women’s prisons have long been a source 
of dramatic intrigue, sometimes of the exploitative variety. Rona 
Munro’s play is no Prisoner: Cell Block H, however. Rather, Munro’s 
exploration of what happens when one inmate’s life sentence is 
interrupted by visits from the daughter she hasn’t seen for fifteen 
years is a tense and complex affair.

First seen at the Traverse in 2002 and revived here by director Richard 
Baron for the Borders-based Firebrand company in association with the 
Heart of Hawick, Iron is a battle of wills between Fay, who stabbed her 
husband to death, and Josie, the daughter Fay never saw growing up. 
While Fay has been made brittle and manipulative by 
institutionalisation, Josie only wants to know what life used to be 
like, when she still had a dad.

Baron’s brooding production is led by Blythe Duff, who plays Fay with a 
flint-eyed concentration and complete lack of sentimentality. As Josie, 
Irene Allan flits between amateur psychology, trying to impress her and 
out and out sparring.

There are moments when Fay and Josie’s increasingly fraught exchanges 
could be the cut and thrust of most mother-daughter spats. Only the two 
prison guards, one male, one female, watching over them like uniformed 
hawks reminds you that all the talk about ear-rings and boys is taking 
place behind bars.

Fay’s relationships with guards Sheila and George are in some ways more 
important than her one with Josie. Claire Dargo’s Sheila in particular 
shares a tense intimacy with Fay that Josie will never have. In the 
end, the emotional lockdown Fay sentences herself to is the only option 
in Munro’s brutal study  of life behind bars.

The Herald, November 8th 2012

ends



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