Tag Archives: Rona Munro

REVIEW: Bold Girls – Lanternhouse, Cumbernauld

Rona Munro’s 1990’s tale of the Troubles, Bold Girls, returns home to where it was first performed by the now legendary 7:84 Scottish People’s Theatre (well, to Cumbernauld Theatre’s newest incarnation at Lanternhouse).

The guns, bombs, helicopters, and RUC, though ever-present, are merely a backdrop to the stories of these bold girls. Marie, Cassie and Nora gather in West Belfast in the run up to a girls’ night out at the local club. An enigmatic young woman appears (almost An Inspector Calls-like) on Marie’s doorstep. Her presence and subsequent revelations break the bonds of the women’s friendship forever.

There’s plenty of banter woven around the reminders of the violence just outside the door, but the reality below the surface manages to quickly rise to the top. The desperation just seeps out. Desperation at the complete inability to escape your circumstances, desperation that you should be thankful your man didn’t hit you, desperation at the inequality of the expectation that you should spoil your sons and reproach your daughters, desperation at maintaining the façade of the perfect widow.

The staging is simplistic, allowing the focus to be on the storytelling and there’s a chemistry between the actors that serves the story well. Stand out among the ensemble is Leigh Lothian’s finely nuanced portrayal of Cassie, a woman wracked with anger and anguish. The tiny details in her characterisation are a delight.

Munro’s piece largely holds up, but one can’t help feeling that it hasn’t entirely stood the test of time. The dialogue, to 2022 ears, isn’t as naturalistic as it could be, and the ending could be trimmed for greater impact. There’s also the problem that the plot’s greatest revelations are a little too clearly signposted that they lack impact.

A worthwhile revival of Munro’s play, enough to tempt you to visit her latest work James IV – Queen of the Fight, the fourth of her James Plays, which tours this autumn.

Runs until 1 October 2022 | Image: Greg MacVean

REVIEW: Rebus: Long Shadows – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

It is a retired John Rebus who appears in his first stage outing, Long Shadows. Currently trying to keep off the cigarettes and booze, Ian Rankin’s best-selling and much-loved detective is living a very different life in his Edinburgh flat. Not exactly in graceful retirement, he is haunted by thoughts of the one’s that got away – the criminals not the romantic kind.

Rebus is plunged straight back into investigation and firmly back off the wagon, when the daughter of the victim of a 17-year-old unsolved murder appears at his door. His once loyal colleague DI Siobhan Clarke has to tread carefully when it transpires that Rebus’ actions in the past may put the conviction of a rapist and murderer and her promotion to DCI, in jeopardy. As every reader of the best-selling novels knows, where Rebus’ past is concerned, it is inevitable that his arch nemesis Big Ger Cafferty will soon appear firmly centre stage.

Playwright Rona Munro has created the first Rebus play based on an original story by Rankin, and as has become her trademark, it is long on dialogue and drama. Tightly written and atmospheric throughout, fans of the novels will be pleased that it has just as many twists and turns.

Scots TV veteran Ron Donachie steps into Rebus’ well-worn shoes and curmudgeonly character. His deft touch and naturalistic portrayal of the often larger than life Rebus is a masterclass in exquisitely judged acting. What could so easily have been an excuse to ham it up, is instead a perfectly pitched portrayal. John Stahl is a suitably oily Cafferty, living the highlife in his 7th floor penthouse, clad in some eye-catching threads. Stahl, another much-loved Scottish acting veteran, has fabulous chemistry with Donachie, something essential to the success of the piece, due to Rankin’s 30-year development in print of the pair’s relationship. Less successful is Cathy Tyson’s portrayal of Rebus’ former police partner, DI Clarke, she is under-used and a little stiff in comparison to the easy chemistry between Donachie and Stahl.

The staging is darkly atmospheric, the only criticism would be the lack of one of its most essential elements – the city of Edinburgh. Rankin delivers such a sense of place in every novel, the atmosphere of the place oozes from every page, so much so that our capital city is almost a character in itself.

Expectations are high when any much-loved Scottish character makes their way to the stage, and thankfully Munro’s adaptation of Rankin’s beloved character delivers plenty of thrills and chills to entertain. Hopefully Rebus’ life continues to expand beyond the pages of Rankin’s novels. Well worth watching for crime fans.

Runs until 2 February 2019 | Image: Contributed

THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR AND PUBLISHED BY THE REVIEWS HUB

REVIEW: Iron – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews.

In Rona Munro’s Iron, lifer Fay has spent the last fifteen years in prison for murdering her husband. For the first time, her now grown-up daughter Josie visits, trying to piece together the fragments of her forgotten past and find out what happened the night her father was killed.

Over time their bond is slowly rebuilt, with Fay attempting to help Josie remember life before Fay was sent down, but Fay’s delight in re-establishing her relationship with her daughter is also overshadowed by her obvious need to live vicariously through her. Despite the prison setting this is fundamentally a story about a relationship between a mother and daughter and the subtle manipulations that can occur between both. Over the course of the piece realisation dawns that both would be much happier if they stayed apart.

The setting is stark, an illuminated rectangle, the prison world outside the walls of the visiting room represented by distant sounds of doors clanging shut and random screams. The air hangs heavy with the grimness of prison life. The staging is by necessity rather static, but director Richard Baron avoids losing the audience’s attention by moving the actors around and providing dramatic contrast in the interactions between the prison guards and some atmospherically lit flights of fancy for Josie and Fay.

Blythe Duff, best known for her role as DC Jackie Reid in Taggart, is acting on the other side of the judicial divide as Fay. Masterfully manipulating both the conversation and the actions of her rediscovered daughter. Duff gives a tour de force performance, skilfully turning the conversation and her emotions on a knife edge, subtly slipping into a warm anecdote a glimpse of the brutal truth of her relationship with her husband, switching from machine gun banter to guarded silence in an instant, it is she who holds the audience gripped throughout. The supporting cast while adept, don’t have the magnetic pull of Duff.

Munro’s writing allows us to get to know these women and to care about what happens to them, painting as it does a grim, heartbreaking insight into prison life and human relationships, but the piece is unnecessarily wordy. The writing is beautifully lyrical and both women speak eloquently of their pains and desires but at two and a half hours long some of the emotional impact and momentum is lost in this otherwise compelling play.