Based on actual historical events,
Doolan delivers the monologue at more or less the same pitch throughout
As the monologue unfolds it becomes increasingly difficult to decide whether Mary has been badly let down by her lover, Cranstoun, or not. Did he put her up to it, tricking her into feeding her father poison, or did she murder her father knowingly because he disapproved of their union? Was her maid, Betty, in on it from the beginning, and whose side is she really on? Will Cranstoun appear at the last minute to save her? Along the way, we hear of the conditions in the prison, the iniquities of the legal system of the time, often motivated by religious sectarianism, and of child prisoners.
The play, written and performed by Lita Doolan, is a short affair something over 25 minutes in length, although advertised as 50. The writing has an authentic period ring with many well-turned passages, and the subject has clearly been well researched. The problem lies with the performance. Doolan delivers the monologue at more or less the same pitch throughout, offering little light and shade, and therefore fails to meet the considerable emotional demands of a complex text. This is a pity as there is some good red meat in there. Occasional lines are articulated with a curiously modern delivery, and the pace is sometimes too swift to properly grasp what is being said. Luckily, this is a lunchtime performance which does not have to compete with the usual Warren hubbub, but even so it is often difficult to hear, as some portions of the monologue are delivered with insufficient projection even for the tiny Burrow. Unfortunately, this cocktail somewhat hobbles Doolan’s own rather good script.
Frustratingly, there is a good piece of work struggling to find the light here. Some re-direction, making the transitions between the various ‘conversations’ Blandy conducts more explicit, would do much to mend matters, as would a significantly sharper performance and longer period of orientation for the audience at the start of the piece. Doolan has produced many plays , but this one seems to fall short of its potential.