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Theatre Review: The Match Box ***

Joy Watters reviews a 'demanding piece'.

The stage is virtually empty, save for a backdrop of newspapers, creating space for the tragic story of a woman bereaved of her only child to unfold. Disbelief, grief, anger, vengeance and heartbreak fill the void. McGuinness’ solo show has mother Sal as storyteller, recounting how her 12-year-old Mary was shot dead on the way home from school, an innocent caught in Liverpool gang crossfire.

McGuinness’ 90-minute monologue is rooted in real events—the murder of a child and conspiracy of silence in a community—but then becomes a tragedy of even greater proportions, one of Old Testament revenge. As Sal tells her tale to the audience, she intermittently strikes matches, not just a metaphor for the brevity of life but the smell of sulphur with all its hellish connotations is there for a purpose.

Janet Coulson as Sal gives a taut, controlled performance, first as a woman trying to hold it together. She runs the gamut of emotions, not believing the death but then accepting it. She says she forgives the killers in the whirlwind of press interviews. Later, she takes horrifying revenge. Coulson never descends into melodrama in this demanding piece.

A single mother with her daughter gone, Sal returns to her Irish roots: an island off Country Kerry, her loneliness increasing daily. A profoundly sad play with its coalescing of modern and ancient tragedy, it is sensitively directed by Richard Baron.

The Match Box tours Scotland until February 24th.

Tags: theatre

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