Imogen Osborne’s adaptation of Richard Cameron’s breakthrough play is fascinating. Interweaving monologues tie together three women from a Yorkshire mining village all recounting their experiences with the unseen antagonist, Royce.
The three women are extremely different characters and the play explores the profoundly devastating effects on all their lives which Royce has over the course of several years. Ruby, played by Ashleigh Weir, is Royce’s former girlfriend and the mother of his son. Ruby’s character was initially very lacking in self-worth and blaming herself but over the years, Weir played her with higher intensity, emphasizing the anger that he had caused to feel as her confidence grew. Then there is Jodie (Sarah Taylor), who witnessed Royce’s bullying of others as a young man, leading up to a traumatic incident which still haunts her to this day. The meatiest role was Lynette, Royce’s wife in the later years, played by Grace England. Lynette’s expression of her belief in the Christian duty of marriage was brilliantly contrasted with her body language expressing fear. There was a nice variety of energy from angry to despondently acceptant to confused and damaged which subtly distinguished between the experiences and reactions of these women.
Mixing in audience engagement with physical reenacting of their monologues provided a nice pace and energy, something that stood out throughout. The use of strong and consistent eye lines gave the opportunity for the other characters to be created from a female perspective, therefore giving the voice and attention to the victims of this bully rather than the bully himself functioning as the protagonist. The use of an unseen attacker eerily reflected the fact that most instances of domestic violence go unseen by the outer world and make the victim feel isolated. England really stood out in the very convincing portrayal of her being the beaten and thrown about the room despite the absence of an attacker.
This brilliance of using simply the three women to create and imagine for the audience these other characters meant that perhaps the voiceover for Carl, Ruby’s son, was unnecessary, and slightly broke the enclosed world which these women were leading. That being said, the eerie whistle of Royce, heard by Lynette, did work well in filling the room with fear.
Spotlighting nicely isolated characters and I liked the way the spotlights began to connect two women as their stories intertwined, which happened with great pace and slickness. Occasionally the lighting was slightly off so that the choice was not obvious and the actors unfortunately missed their mark, which was only disappointing as we missed out on certain moments.
Clearly the whole team on this play put their own twists in from costume to set. I loved the subtle costume changes, such as Ruby putting in hoop earrings as she became more confident while Lynette donned a more conservative skirt one she’d married Royce and began to become more and more subjugated by him. The set also carefully reflected the three women, with Ruby, the angriest having a vibrant red chair; Lynette, sad, hopeless and subdued, had two very plain green chairs which connected nicely with her dreams of the green riverbank which seemed her only solace. The very basic and plain black wooden chair for Jodie reflected her childish ways. These chairs were used in poignant moments almost as podiums behind which the women stood to deliver parts of their monologues.
The play was fascinating and saddening to watch, with a maintained pace that left the audience in slight shock as it was over. A highly thoughtful and thought provoking piece, giving women centre stage and control.