Theatre Review – Iron by Rona Munro

Elizabeth Marsh (Fay). Photo by Keith Pattison.

Elizabeth Marsh (Fay). Photo by Keith Pattison.

By Ken Powell

Iron is the last play of the Summer season to be introduced at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake. Of all the performances on offer currently, it is by far the grittiest tackling difficult issues for anyone to try and deal with.

The story revolves around Fay (played by Elizabeth Marsh) who is serving a life sentence for stabbing her husband to death fifteen years previously and her daughter Josie (Helen Macfarlane) who suddenly starts visiting her, seeing her for the first time since the murder when she was a little girl.

As the two women relearn about one another, we gradually find out about their characters, what drives them and what ails them. Inevitably, of course, we not so much head towards but crash into why Fay murdered her husband whom she clearly loved.

I’ve watched both actors throughout the season and can say, without doubt, that this is by far their best performance. Marsh and Macfarlane are incredible, playing their parts with such realism that I actually felt scared of Fay. It was a stroke of genius not just that the play takes place in the intimate studio theatre but that Elizabeth Marsh is there in ‘her cell’ as we arrived to take our seats and throughout the entire interval break. She never strays from the character until released from her duties during the final applause and the bows. I was emotionally exhausted by her portrayal and stunned by how different she is from the other characters she’s played this season.

As with The Vertical Hour there is a sense of no resolution of issues raised, but unlike it there is a sense that both women move on and push through the demons in their own lives. Whether the next stage will be a good one however we are left to guess.

This is certainly a play for women. Three of the four members of the cast are women and the script focuses on relationships between them and what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a wife and a friend. I expected melodrama but actually there was none. Instead it was almost like being in a kitchen watching two women talking intensely over a cup of tea – only it’s a prison and there’s no drink at all. This is perhaps what’s most frightening about the realism. This isn’t the story of extreme characters; this could be anyone.

From L to R: Rebecca Carrie (Guard 2), Elizabeth Marsh (Fay), Helen MacFarlane (Josie). Photo by Keith Pattison.

From L to R: Rebecca Carrie (Guard 2), Elizabeth Marsh (Fay), Helen MacFarlane (Josie). Photo by Keith Pattison.

 

Iron runs until Friday 4 November and tickets are available at www.theatrebythelake.com or at the box office (017687 74411)