Rating ***
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes

Old Red Lion Theatre
26th September 2013

I’m very fond of plays with small casts that take place in a small stage area. It makes the theatre experience more intimate and you can really see the actors, their body language and facial expressions.

Rona Munro’s play ‘Iron’ at the Old Red Lion Theatre provides exactly that, as there are just four characters, two of which (Guard 1 and Guard 2) are unnamed. The play breaks down borders and explores how relationships can change and be affected by certain situations.

Josie (Emma Deegan) is 25 and has recently returned to Scotland and comes to visit her mother Fay (Shuna Snow), who she hasn’t seen for 15 years. However, Fay is in prison for the murder of Josie’s father. As they get reacquainted and Josie starts to remember her childhood, they both realise that some things are better left in the past.

As the story starts to unfold, the audience are in no doubt as to what happened. Clearly Josie’s father abused Fay, maybe even Josie, and the poor woman is an innocent victim here. But when the climax finally comes, it’s actually quite surprising and almost quite disappointing.

All four actors are strong and there is a clear (albeit strange and awkward) bond between Deegan and Snow. The emotion is written on their faces as they struggle to find a place in their lives for this forgotten relationship.

However, the relationship between Fay and Guard 2 (Emma Carter) is actually far more interesting and Carter manages to perfectly convey her changing feelings towards Fay throughout the performance. Once close, they are now distant; friendship and sympathy has turned to hatred and bitterness, but as the play ends this loathing becomes pity and understanding.

Staging is simple, as one would expect for a play set in a prison, but the set shows the loneliness and nakedness of the female characters, who are all struggling with the situation they find themselves in. The ironic intimacy within the prison setting also helps the audience to understand the characters’ situation.

Munro’s story is a good one and the acting from the three women outstanding, particularly from Snow, who manages to convince the audience of her fragile state with believable dramatic outbursts contrasting her attempts at motherly behaviour.

Unfortunately, the last 10-15 minutes drag slightly, as loose ends that don’t really need addressing are tied up. If these last scenes were shortened, or perhaps even cut, then the play would be far stronger, leaving the audience to come to their own conclusions about what happens to each of the characters once the curtain has fallen.