Iron, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Firebrand Theatre in association with Heart of Hawick
Rona Munro (writer), Adrian Rees (designer), Kate Bonney (lighting design) Richard Baron (director), Jon Beales (sound design), Trudy Rees-Marklew (wardrobe)
Irene Allan (Josie), Claire Dargo (Sheila) Blythe Duff (Fay), Crawford Logan (George)
Running time

Iron: a word that evokes hardness and coldness. Among its dictionary definitions are ‘symbol of firmness’ and as a verb ‘ability to smooth’. It is these qualities that are most evident in this latest powerful play from Rona Munro.

Fay (Blythe Duff) has been convicted of killing her husband. Till now, her only visitor has been her solicitor but fifteen years in to her sentence, she gets another visitor: her daughter, Josie (Irene Allan).

Josie was a child when her father was killed and was brought up by her Gran, her father’s mother, whom she called ‘Mum’. Now at a cross roads in her life, being divorced and looking for a new job, she wants to find out what happened the day her father was killed.

The piece is an exploration of the difficult and tentative relationship between the estranged mother and daughter. With enormous skill and sensitivity, as well as her use of rich and keenly heard language, Munro shows the gradual unraveling of a story as the blanks of the missing years are filled.

At first Fay can make no eye contact, and displays mannish body language, but this gradually changes as memories are shared between the women. In spite of the ‘no touching’ rule, an uneasy understanding develops between them, with Fay enticing a vicarious life for herself from Josie as a diversion from her usual ‘adventure of a chocolate biscuit’.

And who can blame her when part of her survival technique in an environment with no natural light and only a ‘slice of blue’ from her cell window, is to lie down in an awkward position to capture a patch of sun? Her bonnie daughter can bring her virtual sunshine by living the way Fay would like her to. At least that’s the plan.

The two guards, Sheila (Claire Dargo) and George (Crawford Logan), pace the theatre among the audience during ‘visiting time’. Sheila, a single parent who had once befriended Fay is cynical, seeing her as a dangerous manipulator while George, the father of three daughters and self-appointed expert on women has the theory that they respond best to kindness, which is hard to argue with till he says they are like dogs in this respect.

Scotland has no crime passionel, but the revelations of the motive for this fictional murder were full of love, passion and heartache, all brilliantly shown through a superlative cast, with a particularly impassioned performance from Blythe Duff.

The stark set and the chilling sounds of clanging gates and turning locks added to the tense and thoroughly absorbing atmosphere of this tightly directed and thoroughly human play.

Show times

Wednesday 14 - Saturday 17 November 8.00pm

Matinee: Saturday 17 November 2.00pm