Written, directed and performed by Lauren Varnfield
Pretty Villain Productions
‘I was a normal human being for 18 years before I met Ian’
It’s a full house tonight. That peroxide bob and sullen shadowed glare mugshot is already here live on stage, as we walk in, and we reckon we know this story, told in a tight, edgy forty-five minutes.
But Varnfield’s is a seemingly impossible achievement – research, writing and performance altering the way we’ve always seen Myra the monster.
These days we understand more of the lasting effects of physical and emotional abuse on the developing child and adolescent brain. Details of Myra’s grim childhood and teenage infatuation with the mesmerising psychopath Brady suggest that today, coercive control might actually be a credible defence.
A visit from the police, handcuffs, a holding cell – we don’t learn how they were caught, it’s irrelevant and this isn’t the police story.
Time passes via headlines; politics, social history, public events all stream by while Myra is incarcerated. It’s a great use of projection to create a sense of wasted decades.
The play flickers between scenes, backwards and forwards in time, eloquently showing how the past is always with us. Varnfield’s swiftly shifting performance is superb; brittle young girl, constantly on high alert, confusing excitement, arousal and terror til she can’t tell one from the other, contrasts the ageing imprisoned Myra, still, hunched, the voice low, slow and weary.
So was she really the changed, kindly woman Longford portrayed? We’re left with our own conclusions, guided by the letter from a mother begging for the peace that the truth might have offered.
The final moments are chilling; a video journey along the long, lonely road under boiling clouds up onto the Moor.
Rialto Theatre to June 1st