Iron (4 stars)

Thrilling revival of Rona Munro's prison-set drama, featuring a stunning central performance from Blythe Duff

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Iron

The constant stream of biographical works about Susan Newell, Ruth Ellis and Myra Hindley underscores the ongoing fascination with women who kill. Rona Munro’s 2002 play explores this desire to understand what makes seemingly ordinary (even likeable) people commit murder through the fraught reunion between convicted husband-killer Fay Black (Blythe Duff) and her estranged daughter, Josie (Irene Allan).

After 15 years inside, Fay seems resigned to a lifetime of incarceration, compensating by vicariously drinking in her daughter’s work, travel and social exploits. Josie, meanwhile, wrong-footed by her mother’s passion and intelligence, sets in train an appeal, thus unwittingly reopening the can of worms that is her family’s violent past.

Director Richard Baron’s thrilling production for the Borders-based Firebrand Theatre wisely keeps the focus on the central relationshp, gradually opening up the action as the piece progresses and the tension between the two leads deepens. This tumultuous dialogue is complemented by Adrian Rees’ deceptively simple set, which beautifully encapsulates the narrow claustrophobia of both women’s lives. The four-strong cast, which also includes Crawford Logan and Claire Dargo as a pair of guards with strikingly different approaches, is excellent. Duff, though, is stunning as Fay, seamlessly capturing the complexity of a woman who veers from chilly calm to childlike rage, sometimes within the same sentence, but holding just enough back to invest the character with an intriguing ambiguity.

Iron is at The Wynd, Melrose, Mon 12 & Tue 13 Nov; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 14–Sat 17 Nov.

Blackbird

David Harrower's most celebrated and controversial play about a woman confronting the man who abused her when she was twelve is presented by Borders based theatre company Firebrand.

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