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.