By Rona Munro
Directed by Bruce Kerr
With Verity Charlton, Olivia Connolly, Jenny Lovell, Ross Thompsoner Mumford
GREEN ROOM AWARDS: Nomination Best Actress: Jenny Lovell
Set Design by Peter Mumford
Lighting by Dans Sheehan
Iron (July 14 – August 8, 2004) Bill Perrett, The Age 25/07/2004
In Iron, Fay (Jenny Lovell) has been in prison for 15 years for the murder of the husband whom, it transpires, she loved and still misses deeply.
As the play begins Fay is visited by her daughter Josie (Olivia Connolly) for the first time since she was imprisoned. From a nervous and tentative start the two begin to depend heavily on one another, Fay because she believes she can vicariously live a life on the outside through her daughter, and Josie because her mother holds the key to her lost memories of life before the murder.
Rona Munro’s script is deceptively simple. It builds subtly to intricate complexities of characterisation and psychological depth. It is certainly not the first time a writer has used the literal image of the jail to explore ideas of other kinds of imprisonment, but it is certainly one of the better examples.
Josie’s freedom to come and go, so prized by her mother, is really worthless to her. Life outside her visits is only a matter of marking time; reality is reconstructing the past with Fay’s help.
Two guards, each interested for their own reasons, add to the tension of the situation. Verity Charlton as the cynical Sheila and guest Ross Thompson as the perceptive and kindly George give further depth to the portrayals of the central characters. Both are first-rate in the parts, but the play focuses heavily on the mother and daughter.
Connolly gives Josie a finely judged combination of strength and fragility. Lovell is outstanding in the role of the mother, ranging with admirable craft between a lifer’s hardness and lack of sentimentality and maternal pride and love. An exceptional performance.