THE MATCH BOX
by Frank McGuinness.
Tricycle Theatre 269 Kilburn High Road NW6 7JR To 1 June 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm & 22, 29 May 2pm.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS 020 7328 1000.
Review: Carole Woddis 9 May.
Striking revenge drama.
Frank McGuinness is one of Ireland’s most uncompromising yet humane playwrights. His plays, over three decades, have always asked uncomfortable questions. This latest, from Liverpool’s energetic Everyman Playhouse, run by Gemma Bodinetz and Deborah Aydon, goes to the heart of modern life and the innocent victims of gang warfare; London headlines for the past several years have carried harrowing stories of young children caught in the crossfire.
The Match Box, set in Liverpool and on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland, is a gripping, deeply moving examination of the personal cost and public reactions to such an event through the eyes of Sal, a young, unmarried Liverpool mother of Irish extraction who loses her daughter, Mary, needlessly in the crossfire of a gang shooting.
In a stunning solo tour de force, Leanne Best as Sal rewinds us back to the birth of her daughter, the small day-to-day habits that informed their lives, the sudden intrusion of tragedy and reactions to it from herself and others.
And here McGuinness plays his master card. For Sal’s reaction turns out not to be one of apparent forgiveness much to the consternation of those around her.
The Match Box, however, is shot through with ambivalence, in its writing and in Best’s playing, which encourages us as confidants to her secret thoughts and feelings but then overturns those expectations. She may or may not have played a part in a fire in which two brothers, suspected of her daughter’s murder, died.
Skilfully intertwining jaunty defiance with agony, in a stunning climax McGuinness shows Sal back in exile in Ireland, alone, ultimately surrendering to gut-wrenching grief with a howl of pain that reaches back into time.
Directed by Lia Williams with a superb sense of atmosphere on a set that looks like every run-down farmhouse there has ever been in Irish drama, from Synge to McDonagh, McGuinness has produced one of his most powerfully resonant commentaries on human behaviour, where Sal’s constant striking of matches becomes a time-bomb ticking metaphor for the brevity of life and the primordial urge for justice and revenge.
Sal: Leanne Best.
Director: Lia Williams.
Designer: Colin Richmond.
Lighting: Charlie Lucas.
Sound/Composer: Giles Perring.
World premiere at Liverpool Playhouse Studio 14 June 14 2012.