Emer O’Kelly reviewed a production of Marina Carr’s ‘Woman and Scarecrow’ directed by Selina Cartmell, at the Peacock Theatre (Sunday October 14, 2007).
We are born alone and we die alone. If we pretend otherwise we are fooling ourselves. Further, where death is concerned we are also denying ourselves the comfort of informed emotional realism.
That coldly bleak argument is at the heart of Marina Carr’s Woman and Scarecrow, given its Irish premiere at the Peacock. It is an angry, intensely cerebral play. But it is cased in a twister of impassioned emotional storm the like of which has seldom been seen on a stage. And it is wonderful.
Woman is dying. She is full of loathing and resentment, the domestic front she has kept up through 30 years of unhappy marriage a sham, her eight children her defence and a vindictive barrier against the world.
The husband who has repeatedly betrayed her has returned for the final watches of her life, repeating his insensitive cruelties even as he tries to help her on her painful last journey. He interprets her anguished verbal battle with Scarecrow, her inner self, as the morphine-inspired ramblings of sickness.
Scarecrow, though, wants out of Woman’s casing: she wants to show herself before they must leave the half-world of a life half-lived. She has been Woman’s only salvation but she has had enough of being repressed. This is her last chance, and she is threatening to abandon Woman entirely before the final moment unless she is allowed to use her angry, vital, and malevolent voice.
Woman and Scarecrow is about lonely, raging death, a death made bearable only with the vitality of hatred. Its vibrant defiance of empathy should make it almost distasteful but instead it overwhelms one with its insane, pitiful logic.
Carr writes emotional pain like few others, and she surpasses herself in this work. We see only Woman’s viewpoint: her husband and Auntie Ah who reared her are unequivocal monsters. A reality check tells us that few people are so utterly despicable. But seeing them through Woman’s eyes only, with the mocking chorus of Scarecrow’s voice urging her on, we see them as Woman does: devoid of saving grace in a world equally devoid of such grace.
– Emer O’Kelly, Irish Independent, 2007