The Royal Court Theatre presents
Woman and Scarecrow ( Archived )
By Marina Carr
16 June - 15 July 2006
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
Don’t miss the chance to see Ireland’s finest actresses in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court. Fiona Shaw (Medea, Julius Caesar), winner of three Olivier Awards for Best Actress, takes on the lead role and is joined by Brid Brennan (Dancing at Lughnasa) in Marina Carr’s new play Woman and Scarecrow.
‘Why didn’t I have more sex when I could have?’
‘You were too busy hoovering’
On her deathbed a woman with eight children and a remorseful, cheating husband surveys her life and imagines what else could have been. Full of bitter humour and brutal honesty this is a fierce, passionate and beautiful lament from leading Irish playwright Marina Carr, probing one woman’s attitudes to death and the life that came before it.
‘This world’s job is to take everything from you. Yours is not to let it’
Marina Carr’s previous plays seen at the Royal Court are ON RAFTERY’S HILL (with Druid Theatre Company) and PORTIA COUGHLAN (with Abbey Theatre/winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Award). Her other work includes BY THE BOG OF CATS (Abbey Theatre)and THE MAI (Peacock Theatre/winner Best New Irish Play Dublin Theatre Festival 1994).
Direction: Ramin Gray
Design: Lizzie Clachan
Sound: Emma Laxton
Cast: Brid Brennan, Peter Gowen, Stella McCusker and Fiona Shaw
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Lynn Gardner, The Guardian, 23 June 2006
In a simple room, adorned only by a large wardrobe, a dying woman, mother to eight children and wife to an unfaithful husband, lies on a bed. In a haze of morphine, crumpled sheets and regret, she looks back over her life. It is never easy becoming the past tense, and in the latest play from Irish writer Marina Carr the struggle between life and death – the thing in the wardrobe – is an epic one. Yet Carr’s play, crammed with wild laughter and dense with unshed tears, is not so much about dying as about how to live.
Those who have lived every single second to the full, have loved and been loved with unrestrained passion and who have never let rancour and revenge curdle them, have absolutely no need to visit this play. The rest of us most certainly do. “It is easy to be happy,” suggests the woman. “It is a decision. Like going to the dentist.” Why then, do we so often choose unhappiness, when the only person we spite is ourselves?
Like all Carr’s work, Woman and Scarecrow is laden with poetry and has flashes of romanticism, but here the tendency towards the lyrical is tempered with a robust humour that ensures the evening never becomes mawkish. It is made more palatable by two exquisitely judged central performances from Fiona Shaw as the woman and Brid Brennan as Scarecrow.
Perhaps the piece would benefit from a little editing. But this is a play that seeps into your very bones, making you realise that in squandering love we squander the best part of ourselves.
- * * *
Sam Marlowe, The Times, 23 June
Drama doesn’t come much richer or stranger than this death-bed lament by the Irish playwright Marina Carr. Ravishing in its dense, literary language, it is as visceral as it is intellectual. Given a contained yet electrifying theatricality by Ramin Grays compelling production, with a towering central performance by Fiona Shaw, it lingers not only in the ear and brain, but in the imagination and the gut.
Woman, mother of eight and wife to a faithless husband, lies in pain on snowy pillows. Around her stalks Scarecrow, a sharp-tongued female in silky nightdress and heels. Woman longs to expire in style, like a flower-strewn Ophelia; Scarecrow berates her for her life’s squandered opportunities. Ominous sounds emanate from the wardrobe. There’s something nameless and nasty in there, and soon Woman must surrender to it.
Along with Shakespeare, Carr stirs Greek mythology, Gothic romance and biblical imagery into the plays bubbling and occasionally overflowing cauldron. Woman, who has spent years knitting in the absence of her roving husband, resembles Odysseus’ weaving wife Penelope. The thing in the wardrobe seems part angel of death, part Fury, part malevolent, churchyard crow; Scarecrow is at once an alter ego, a familiar who keeps the crow creature at bay, and – in a final, delicious twist – something far less reassuring. The mundane also meets the sinister in the coldly solicitous, black-clad Auntie Ah and Woman’s resentful, guilt-ridden husband, while scores of unseen relatives and a Catholic priest – another crow? – wait next door with growing impatience for her to gasp her last.
Carr’s play is partly a black comedy charting a passionate life stifled in a provincial Ireland ruled by moral, domestic and religious hypocrisy. But it also raises vast existential and tragic themes about the lives we choose to lead and the legacy we leave behind, as well as the power of fate and our ability to fight it. Shaw, pale and bony as Woman, is magnificent: vain, witty, despairing and desolate, howling with grief at the loss of her children yet worn out by bearing them, filled with rage for her husband but still deeply in love with him. She’s surrounded by superb support – Brid Brennans coolly compassionate, teasing Scarecrow, Stella McCusker as Auntie Ah – whose very name sounds like the exhalation of generations of pain – and Peter Gowen as the husband. An extraordinary brew, bittersweet and totally intoxicating.
JERWOOD THEATRE UPSTAIRS
WOMAN AND SCARECROW
16 June – 15 July
Tickets Tuesday – Saturday 15 Mondays 10 (available on the day only, please call the Box Office)
Monday – Saturday 7.45pm (no performance 26 June)
16, 17, 19, 20 June 7.45pm
21 June 7pm
Sign-Interpreted Performance(s) Wednesday 5 July 7.45pm
Wednesday 28 June
24 June and 1, 8, 15 July 4pm