Review by Danny Gaisin
Scottish playwright Rona Munro, of TV’s “Dr. Who” series, is also respected for her contributions to the contemporary British theatre. “IRON” refers to the metal endemic to a prison, but also refers albeit obliquely, to the indomitability of the spirit. This 4-member play is a serious study into the human psyche and a thought-provoking challenge for actor & audience.
Dundas Little Theatre; and director Peter Lloyd are taking a risk by staging such an audience-limiting subject and trusting that the selected actors can faithfully articulate the diverse characterizations that are the intrinsic rationale for this work. The plot deals with the reunion, after fifteen years; of a daughter with her incarcerated mother…convicted of killing her husband and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mid-twenties Josie has an established life & career, but suffers from amnesia about her life around the time of the murder. Hence; a reunification at the gaol. The daughter is understandably uncomfortable; the mother has subjugated any maternal instincts as well as normal societal mores. Thus, the first few meetings are tense and fraught with pitfalls. Sabrina Feser displays all the hesitations & naiveté that one expects when in a totally unique circumstance.
The fortitude and defence mechanisms exhibited by Katharine Soluk as her mother ‘Fay’, ring with sincerity. Director Lloyd has his major characters almost over-utilize postures, body language and extended hesitancy to underscore the discomfort as well as self- imposed barriers that both protagonists manifest. The result is almost sub-plots delineating what makes both ‘tick’. Fay’s manipulations; Josie’s insecurity, and the faux mother/daughter paradigm are fascinating to observe.
The two support roles are enacted by Monica Cairney & Richard Vaillincourt. Sheila and George are the prison guards who fill out the background on their inmate. Cairney’s character is about the same age as Josie and has experienced the personal machinations with which Fay manipulates others; Vaillincourt is the avuncular, more sympathetic ‘screw’ who can still empathize with his charges as well as having a modicum of humanity. Both give strong impressions of diversity within a similar circumstance, thus are a microcosm of society as we all know it. They too, like the protagonists, are epitomes of practicality vs. restraint.
The set is sparse but effective. Fay’s cell is stage-rear left; the entry-point podium and conference table are placed at opposite sides of the stage giving each an effective feeling of isolation. Clever lighting and sound effects enhance the bleakness of prison & prison life.
“IRON” will be at DLT until May 12th. It’s definitely for mature audiences and will not be to everyone’s taste; but it IS theatre in the true sense of the word and is definitely worthwhile seeing.