I have to admit I was sceptical of how feminist a one-woman show, written by a man, with the title Victim, could be. While I’m not sure that it is feminist, Martin Murphy’s Victim is a well-crafted, woman-focused monologue. Louise Beresford superbly embodies the two central characters: prison officer Tracey and inmate Siobhan. Tracey seems a normal, straightforward woman. Working in a prison is not her vocation, just something she took up when she needed a job. Siobhan, insinuatingly sinister and borderline psychopathic, runs things inside the prison and knows how to manipulate people – inmates and guards – to do what she wants. Siobhan confidently describes how she plays people, exploits their weaknesses. She can be funny, she can be confessional, she can be whatever you want her to be. She can make you feel sorry for her. As she says this, I try to work out whether she has been manipulating me and disconcertingly cannot.
In an effective dramatic device, the character that is the focus of Tracey’s obsession and Siobhan’s cellmate and hook for Tracey, the child killer Marcia, does not speak. While Tracey wonders how someone could do such a thing and attempts to get to know Marcia in the belief that she is helping her, Marcia becomes a pawn in Siobhan’s power games. As might be anticipated, our perception of who the ‘victim’ is shifts over the course of the play.
Murphy shows his skills as a dramatist in construction and pacing. The story slowly unravels and Siobhan’s net around Tracey tightens. She fears going to prison so much because of what she has heard happens to screws inside, but this fear traps her even more than admitting her mistake would. Victim devastatingly asks, ‘Who protects those that protect us?’
Victim is at the Pleasance Courtyard, till 28th August.