Walking on Walls

There’s no hanging about with Morna Pearson’s Walking On Walls; when the lights come up, we see a bespectacled woman observing a man who’s bound on an office chair, tape across his mouth and traces of blood on his forehead. “Hi. Hello. So I phoned the police, just so you know,” she explains, which—understandably—doesn’t seem to reassure him. At the very least the situation is a tad bizarre; while there are two characters on stage, only one initially does the talking.

Under Rosie Kellagher’s direction, Helen Mackay and Andy Clark offer two excellent performances

Few writers now approach costumed vigilantes—be they Batman or not—without at least some recognition of their personal demons. So it’s hardly surprising that Claire (though we don’t learn her name till towards the end) is quickly presented as a clearly fragile loner, obsessed with statistics and proud of the fact that her colleagues no longer ask her to join them in the pub after work. Unfortunately, for what feels like at least 20 minutes, we’re simply told this, with all the subtlety of the brick she used to knock the man—Fraser—unconscious. Even Pearson seems to recognise the potential risk here; at one point, Claire wonders if she’s telling him so much simply because he’s gagged.

Thankfully, the play changes gear significantly once Claire takes off Fraser’s gag and the monologue becomes a dialogue. As she insists that he knows who she is—despite his initial protestations otherwise—it gradually becomes clear that Claire, who has “learned to live with anxiety”, is a much more believable psychological being than the opening of the play suggested: a victim of classroom bullying who has come home to settle some scores with her tormentors.

Fraser has “moved on” from those days in quite a different way from Claire: “Shite happens when you’re young,” he insists, clearly baffled by the extent “Square Claire with the four-eyed stare” still obsesses about “jokes” and “fun” that he’d likely forgotten about by the next morning. Our sympathies, however, can’t really be with him; we’re given little more than hints that he’s someone who doesn’t consider the consequences of his actions on others, whether it’s hiding Claire’s clothes after a swimming class or not picking up after his dog in the park. He’s never been a victim, Claire insists, but does she protest too much? Pearson’s script ensures that it’s Claire who has the last word, but nevertheless lets us make up our own minds about whether she’s right.

Under Rosie Kellagher’s direction, Helen Mackay and Andy Clark offer two excellent performances, Mackay in particular almost making us accept that massive opening monologue. Clark, meantime, does a lot even while mute on his chair, and lands a few darkly comedic moments with real impact. If there’s one problem, though, it’s simply the slight difficulty in believing both characters were in the same class at school—Mackay simply looks several years younger than her fellow performer.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

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The Blurb

When Claire was little she’d pretend she was Superman. Now she’s an adult who hates the litter, graffiti and drugs in her town and is on a mission to clean up. Tonight, however, she might find more than she bargained for.

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