‘And she grew to be a girl, my daughter, my Mary. Sing a song, Mary. Sing for grandma and granda. Sing.’
The ties that bind can never be broken. For Sal, they hang like a noose around her neck, just loose enough to keep a small but potent flame alive inside.
A passionate story of love and hate.
A visceral play by one of Ireland’s greatest playwrights and poets, Frank McGuinness.
Valentia, a tiny island off the coast of County Kerry, is the kind of place where you make your own entertainment. Sal, a young woman who has returned to her remote Irish roots, passes the time by striking matches and letting them burn. "There is, I find, something pleasant about the smell of sulphur," she says. Frank McGuinness's monologue begins with a seemingly inconsequential musing on the subject of safety matches, though there are ominous portents including the silence (there are few children left on the island), and Sal's disturbing belief that the spring lambs are communicating messages about her dead daughter, Mary.
This astringent solo show is less a play than a succinct invocation of the tragic cycle of violence and revenge that brings to mind McGuinness's best work as a noted translator of the Greeks. Twelve-year-old Mary perished as the innocent victim of crossfire between rival gangs. The perpetrators, believed to be members of the same family, were never brought to trial, but later perished in a suspicious house fire. Whether this represents summary or merely poetic justice is left to the audience to decide.
Sal stoically negotiates the obligations of modern media bereavement; recalling the manner in which she outflanked the cameras at a press conference by extending an unexpected note of conciliation towards her daughter's killers. But it adds up to a virtuoso portrayal of a woman consumed by incandescent grief. McGuinness has conceived a compelling, tragic heroine: a woman to be pitied and feared in equal measure. You will come out feeling like the contents of the matchbox: completely spent.