Friday, 5 February 2010

A Play A Day #2: stoning mary by debbie tucker green

Oh dear, I seem to have fallen behind rather quickly in this task I have set myself. I shall endeavour to catch up with another play I know well...

stoning mary (both title and playwright are deliberately lowercase) takes three issues mainly associated with the developing world, and transposes them to a European context - the script specifies that all the characters are white - echoing Tony Blair's comment at the World Economic Forum in 2005 that, 'If what was happening in Africa today was happening in any other part of the world, there would be such a scandal and clamour that governments would be falling over themselves to act in response.' I acted in a production of this at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2008, and the subject matter made this a difficult one to sell. It was a rainy summer that year, and as I stood on the Royal Mile with a pile of soggy fliers trying to tempt people to see a play about AIDS, child soldiers, and death by stoning occasionally I wished I was in a comedy about funny animals. Though the issues are weighty, however, tucker green explores them with a lightness of touch. The husband and wife fighting over the one anti-retroviral prescription they can afford, the mother and father with their conflicting memories of their kidnapped son, the sisters bickering in prison: all of these are credible human relationships rather than dreary didactic stereotypes.

Ultimately, though, what stands out for me about this play is the same thing that drew me to it when I first encountered it in auditions - the sharp, distinctive brilliance of the language. tucker green wrote poetry before she wrote plays, and it seems to me that many excerpts from stoning mary could stand alone as poems. The Older Sister's description of her hypothetical last request ('... Somethin fizzy. Somethin fizzy n' strong. Somethin that'd (gasps) me. Bottles of it. Crates a it. No glass necessary suck it straight from source, bottle up head back - lash it down. Lovely.') is as effervescent and intoxicating as the drink she is imagining. Mary's speech demanding to know 'what happened to the womanist bitches? The feminist bitches?' who didn't support her cause is lyrical rather than preachy. The idiosyncrasies of the characters' speech did make some of the lines rather tricky to learn ('Cos - "you me" - mighta got sick and tired a takin reverse charged allocated anything from "me you" - that "you me " didn't want.'), but add to a sense of percussive urgency. If anything, the tidy structure of the play - the way three seemingly disparate stories intersect - seems at odds with the messy, exciting language. I found the introduction of the Boyfriend character towards the end, presumably to mirror the Husband and Wife at the beginning and suggest a perpetual cycle of desperation and dependency, superfluous and a little confusing. 

It is also intriguing reading back over all the notes I scribbled on my copy of the script, for example:

Wow. That's an acting master-class, right there.

I believed in this play enough to shave my head for the character; the past eighteen months have represented a journey from bald to bob:

It was definitely worth it: I still feel very lucky to have been in this play. 

Good female monologues? Yes: Both the Older and the Younger Sister have several, including Older Sister's hilarious obsessive questions about Mary's glasses, and Mary's 'bitches' speech.

1 comment:

  1. thank you soo much, I learned a lot, you are a big help !!! We're performing this play in college and reading this helped me understand the play a lot more:)X


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