Pros: A powerful, moving and at times electrifying performance.
Cons: The dark and disturbing portrait of a killer doesn’t always feel like entertainment.
To write and feature in your very first play is, by anyone’s standards a massive leap of faith; but for actress, illustrator and playwright Lucy Roslyn it was literally no sweat. Widely acclaimed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013, she now plays at the Kings Head Theatre as part of the venue’s 45th Anniversary celebrations.
Set in a Texas prison, The State versus John Hayes tells the story of Elyese Dukie, an inmate placed on death row for murdering her husband and lover. The audience become a trusted confidante as her deepest desires and fears tumble out in one final confessional.
Elyese burns with ambiguity as she describes the twisted relationships that shaped the final months of her life. Alongside Elyese, we are introduced to several other characters who have played roles in her life: Governor Allbright, trying but failing to truly understand her motivation; Officer Abigail Leonard, the barely disguised object of her lust; Carl, her eleven year old son searching for a happy memory of his mother; Dale, her neglectful, brutal husband; Lorraine, her one true love and finally; John Hayes, the architect of Elyese’s demise. But did he actually inhabit her body? Was he simply guiding her hand, or is he a figment of her imagination? If the murders were the result of a schizophrenic episode, is she offering mitigation in exchange for her own life, or merely clearing her conscience before facing mortality?
The audience are bombarded with often contradictory streams of thought; but you do honestly feel you’re touring the mind of a killer. And it’s a disturbing ride, though always a compelling one. Lucy Roslyn is brilliant in the role and can juggle a range of emotions with comparative ease; controlled and articulate; then manically unhinged. Sixty minutes passes by very quickly; and I can only complement Lucy Roslyn and the Kings Head Theatre for staging such an original and engaging piece of work.
Author: Lucy Roslyn
Director: Jemma Gross
Producer: Epsilon Productions
Box Office: 0207 226 8561
Booking link: https://kingsheadtheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873539280/events
Booking until: 22 November 2015