The Match Box

The prospect of a two-act monologue that lasts around two and a quarter, an interval, is perhaps daunting for both the actor and aficionados of the genre alike. Angela Murray, however pulls it off with consummate ease in Frank McGuinness’s The Match Box at the Omnibus Theatre, Clapham.

A powerful script sensitively and passionately delivered.

We know all is not well from the outset. Sal’s past tense references to her daughter immediately sow the seeds of a story that will gradually unfold and provide plenty of scope for fertile imaginations, until what happened is eventually revealed. Even that leaves the tale far from it’s ending. Twists and surprises lie in store that are more than just mere events; they pose questions about families and friends, the media and the police, justice and forgiveness, punishment and retribution and above all, about how one woman overcomes hurdles and confronts her demons while maintaining her dignity, integrity and sense of self worth.

There are many appealing aspects to Murray’s performance. She was born in London to Irish parents, so she is comfortable in a play that references both places. The tragedies she relates could happen to anyone with children and impact a far wider circle, indeed many families could tell similar stories not just in an Anglo-Irish context but from all over the world. They are exceptional tales about unexceptional people who find themselves thrust into dire situations, not of their own making, and suddenly transformed into something else. Murray, in this role, captures the ordinariness of Sal. She’s the sort of lady you could pass in the street, or see stirring her tea in the cafe or pushing her trolley around the supermarket and, apart from perhaps noting the colour of her hair, think nothing of her. You would certainly have no idea of her past and ongoing tribulations. Her revelations, therefore, become all the more startling because they happen to such an otherwise plain person.

Strange Fish Theatre Company has another moving success here that follows on well from their triumph with Quietly. Director James O’Donnell has kept this production as simple as possible, allowing Murray’s words to remain at the fore. Paul Lloyd’s basic white-washed set enhances this focus on the text while providing an overall remote context and flexible settings. Along with movement director Rachel Isaac there is still further scope for physically highlighting transitions in the story at various times, but the often eerie sounds from designer and composer Jon McLeod work well in this capacity as does the lighting by Amy Daniels.

This is not just a very satisfying production of a powerful script sensitively and passionately delivered, it is also a piece of history that resonates in so many locations and inevitably begs the question, “What would you have done; what would you do?”

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

"And she grew to be a girl, my daughter, my Mary. Sing a song, Mary. Sing a song for Grandma and Granda"

The ties that bind us can never be broken and a potent flame burns in the heart of a mother. Why is Londoner Sal hiding out in a remote Irish island? Her compelling story is one of love, hate and the desire for revenge. Her tale begs only one question: what would you be prepared to do for the ones you love?

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