Greenside @ Infirmary Street – Mint Studio
There’s no need for dramatisation in Mary Goggin‘s memoir. In fact, there’s little need for much more than her own self, on a modestly dressed and plainly lit set, nothing but a chair in the centre of the stage and an oversized storybook on the floor. She IS the story. She provides the drama before reaching her own happy ending. Switching between the fable tone – which seemed more popular than ever at this year’s Fringe – and recollections of real events, Runaway Princess is the story of her life.
It starts with a “once upon a time” allegory of what brought Ireland to become impoverished; whiskey and religion are identified as prime culprits. When a large slice of its population migrated to the United States, Mary’s parents followed, yet clung on even tighter to their traditions and religion.
Mary Pat – this is how everyone called her whilst growing up – was born and spent her childhood in the New York’s Bronx, sharing “a dark house” with a caring father and an unloving mother. Whilst the paternal figure is almost idealised, it is around the conflictual maternal relationship that most of the early incidents revolve – like her running away from home aged twelve. Rebellion is a word that will often come to mind. Nonetheless, the tone chosen for this piece is never accusatory, but very much matter of fact and, at times, much more compassionate than we might have anticipated.
The long title sums up the storyline better than any blurb could do. Introduced to heroin in her early teenage years, drinking became her comfort blanket and prostitution a way to support herself financially whilst living on the street. The whole hour we spend in her company is a downward spiral. Each time we think she has finally reached the bottom, the tale takes another turn for the worst, with more misery and despair added. When she discovers she is expecting a baby, our hopes are raised, only to be disappointed again and again. Because of her honesty, though, it’s hard to judge her choices. If anything, we are in awe of her resilience and perseverance.
Fortunately, like all fables, there is a happy ending. As we peel away the last layer of a broken woman, one who trod on the edge of society because she never felt she fit in, we finally find the princess, reunited at last with her most precious treasures. This is indeed a tale of hope that deserved to be shared.
Written and Produced by: Mary Goggin
Directed by: Dan Ruth
Runaway Princess: A Hopeful Tale of Heroin, Hooking and Happiness played at EdFringe 2022. Further information about the show can be found on its website here.