Huntsville Prison, Texas 1959. Elyese Dukie is on death row for the murder of two people. Tomorrow she goes to court for the last time. This is the premise for Lucy Roslyn’s one woman play.
Her whiter than white all American smile is unnerving and you just don’t know whether you can trust a word that comes out of that crooked smiled mouth or if she’s playing us all for fools.
The State vs John Hayes has been touring for a while and Roslyn is clearly gaining a great profile through favourable four and five star reviews. It started at The Hen and Chickens, had a successful Edinburgh Festival Fringe run in 2013 and has toured to Theatre Royal Bath. This is a show that has achieved that Fringe Holy Grail and secured a future successful life.
Performing an hour-long monologue is tough for any Actor and Roslyn clearly inhabits her character. We are treated to a one hour personal interview with Dukie whilst she tells us things she won’t admit to her psychiatrists and prison wardens. Her performance is slick, her accent faultless and she really engages with her audience. Her whiter than white all American smile is unnerving and you just don’t know whether you can trust a word that comes out of that crooked smiled mouth or if she’s playing us all for fools.
However I felt the show at times was overloading the audience with information – I felt a little confused about who was who, and Dukie seemed to have so many issues that it felt like the play might have benefitted from a critical friend or dramaturge to iron out a few glitches and make it a five star show. Dukie is a single parent who can’t engage with her child, has Father issues and is a transgender lesbian who kills her lover. At times this made my head spin but I guess that’s also part and parcel of watching a play about schizophrenia, and perhaps from Roslyn’s research women on death row really do have this many issues. Despite this Roslyn clearly has talent, more so as an actor than a writer, but this show is a labour of love and that shines through. It will make you think and Roslyn’s performance will keep you gripped.