‘Written with a passionate intensity that is full imagined’: VICTIM – King’s Head Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Aleks SierzLeave a Comment

King’s Head Theatre, London – until 21 April 2018

Last night, I went to the King’s Head Theatre to see Martin Murphy’s hugely enjoyable Victim, a one-woman show about life in prison. It has already had a successful outing in Edinburgh last year and concerns two females on opposite sides of the law.

Tracey works as a prison officer and the powerful 60-minute drama unlocks her relationship with one particular prisoner, Siobhan, an Irishwoman who has committed a domestic murder and shares a cell with Marcia, a notorious child killer. The conscientious Tracey gradually gets manipulated by the highly devious Siobhan. For while Tracey knows all about the rules of prison life, she is not quite prepared for the other woman’s total commitment to dominating the situation.

In the end we can see how power has drained away from the officer and come into the hands of the prisoner — who is not afraid to use it. It’s a symbiotic relationship that reminds me of Jean Genet: both officer and prisoner are equally locked up, mentally as well as physically.

So who is really the victim? Murphy writes with a passionate intensity that is beautifully controlled and fully imagined. Alternating monologues by each of the women, he charts their emotional journeys with economy and a fair deal of wit. It’s a funny as well as fearsome story.

Murphy directs Louise Beresford for Bruised Sky Productions and she is excellent, convincingly expressive and agile in both roles. My only gripe is that the short 60-minute Edinburgh format is a bit frustrating: I wanted to know more about Tracey’s home life and Siobhan’s criminal career. And Marcia surely deserves a play of her own.

Aleks Sierz on Twitter
Aleks Sierz
Aleks Sierz FRSA is a theatre critic, and author of the seminal study of new 1990s playwrights, In-Yer-Face Theatre. His other books include Rewriting the Nation, The Theatre of Martin Crimp, John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, The Methuen Drama Guide to Contemporary British Playwrights and Modern British Playwriting. His latest book (co-authored with Lia Ghilardi) is The Time Traveller’s Guide to British Theatre. He also works as a journalist, broadcaster, and lecturer. Aleks blogs independently at www.sierz.co.uk and tweets at @alekssierz.
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Aleks Sierz on Twitter
Aleks Sierz
Aleks Sierz FRSA is a theatre critic, and author of the seminal study of new 1990s playwrights, In-Yer-Face Theatre. His other books include Rewriting the Nation, The Theatre of Martin Crimp, John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, The Methuen Drama Guide to Contemporary British Playwrights and Modern British Playwriting. His latest book (co-authored with Lia Ghilardi) is The Time Traveller’s Guide to British Theatre. He also works as a journalist, broadcaster, and lecturer. Aleks blogs independently at www.sierz.co.uk and tweets at @alekssierz.