Strangers, Babies

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 23 Feb-Sat 17 Mar

NEW WORK

It’s pretty easy, when you think about it, to spot the difference between how men and women treat their relationships. Men are driven by ego - the person they go out with is their own business, and just try to tell them otherwise. Women, on the other hand, less driven as they are by ego, seek affirmation of their decision, talking to friends in the kind of detail about time spent with their partner that a man would be too egocentric to remember. In other words, women go out with egomaniacs, and men (it feels at times) with committees.

So it is that the central character of Linda McLean’s new piece for the Traverse wants to consult the people close to her about her next big life decision. But there are differences. For one, all the people she needs to talk to are men, not other women. And, more significantly, she killed a child when she was 12. McLean’s play is in fact a succession of short plays unified by one woman, who, in turn, speaks to her husband, dying father, sado-masochistic lover, brother and social worker in the course of her decision to have a child.

‘This process is all about my character, May, checking she’s okay. She goes and sees all these men - she’s quite independent and set on what she wants to do, but she has to talk to them anyway‚’ explains actress Gillian Kearney. The case of 1960s child killer Mary Bell seems to have been an influence on McLean’s text, and Kearney, a well known television face from such programs as Brookside, Lillies and many others, speaks of her character, not with repulsion, but with an optimism about life that comes as a surprise.

‘The play asks: is there redemption, is there ever redemption? I get the feeling that she’s very loved by all these men, and it’s not them who have damaged her. In a way, she’s a very positive character; she’s not like the real Mary Bell, who I’ve been reading about, in that, even though she’s a good mother, she’s still very, very sad, beaten and locked away. My character is moving on.’

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