A prodigious playwright, Douglas Maxwell will have at least 5 of his plays performed this year - including a musical for Cumbernauld Theatre. 'Promises, Promises' however is a monologue written in the voice of a primary school teacher who feels drawn to protect a mute six year old Somalian girl, allegedly possessed by the devil.
Joanna Tope, who plays the character of the retired teacher Maggie Brodie, gives a marvellous rendition of this troubled person whose life has been beset by her father's religious fanaticism and who also used to chide her with deprecating comments: "My father always knew I had the devil in me."
The play is a lengthy monologue - ninety minutes - which is a considerable time to sustain interest but there were only a few occasions when one's attention started to drift, which is a credit to not only the actress but to the writer.
The stage presentation was also imaginative. With clever use of lighting, and multimedia images, we were transported to the various phases of her life, enhanced by the three revolving doors at the back of the set juxtaposing a primary school setting of a cloakroom with toilets, where she gains the little girl's trust and promises not to expose the abuse of her circumcision.
The acting is excellent. Joanna Tope thoroughly engages us with the emotional depths of this damaged person. Maxwell's writing, which involves much humour at the beginning, is confidently fluent and the ending has a most unexpected twist. And the music, specially composed for the production by Karen MacIver, is seductively ghost-like and haunting. Overall, 'Promises, Promises' is an adventurous, entertaining piece of theatre.
2-13 March, London, Soho Theatre
18-19 March, Irvine, Harbour Arts Centre
24 March, Inverness, Eden Court Theatre
25 March, Banchory, Woodend Barn