It’s no mere nod and a wink to lovers of Muriel Spark that the school teacher protagonist of Douglas Maxwell’s gripping new monologue is called Margaret Anne Brodie. The character herself may claim not to have read Spark’s famous novel of sex, power and religion, but the playwright undoubtedly has. Like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Maxwell’s script is dense in ideas about traditional power structures as well as the corrupting nature of religious and personal dogma.
The play centres around the exorcism of a six-year-old elective mute Somalian girl by ‘community leaders’ in Miss Brodie’s classroom, an event that provokes a startlingly violent reaction in the jaded, twice ‘retired’ teacher. Gradually we learn of the deep-rooted inner fury that lurks beneath her smart exterior, her neuroses dating back to a vicious power struggle with her strict Scottish Presbyterian father.
The fact that Miss Brodie unfolds her story out of sequence, piece by piece, in a tone that moves seamlessly from sardonic comedy to toe-curling horror, renders the piece all the more riveting. Maxwell’s monologue exhibits a lyrical quality that produces a wonderfully heightened atmosphere while the nuances of the writing are complemented by a simply mesmerising performance by Joanna Tope as the troubled teacher.
Currently touring throughout Scotland. Seen at Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Sat 6 Feb