Martin Murphy’s new play Victim explores the lives of a prison guard and inmate, with both characters played by Louise Beresford. This one woman show doesn’t lose the audience’s attention for a second and is a wonderful example of the hidden theatrical gems Edinburgh Fringe has to offer. Phenomenally performed, Victim is a stunning and philosophical work of art.
Beresford gives a marathon of a performance. On stage alone in the intimate venue with no props but a single chair, the show rests entirely in her capable hands. She plays the prison officer, Tracey, with a London twang and an honest optimism. Then as the lights change, she shifts seamlessly into Siobhan, the inmate who murdered her ex-boyfriend and confidently boasts of her place atop the prison hierarchy. Both women are absolutely believable, rounded and intriguing, so much so it’s almost surprising that they were written by a man.
The plot is very subtle, clever and nestled between anecdotes and emotion. Tracey tries to understand a new inmate, Marcie, who has helped murder her own child in an attempt ‘to cut the badness out’. At the same time, Tracey is repressing worries about her own fertility. Through Siobhan we learn a lot about the inside workings of prisons. She reveals how people go about smuggling things in, and how they use the guards as their pawns, with Tracey as her current target.
It’s easy to ignore what humans are capable of when you are an ordinary person going about your life and those who have committed crimes are locked up, away from you. But if your job was to spend all day in a prison you could hardly help asking yourself how and why people commit the worst crimes. As Tracey puts it, while sitting in a pub quiz (she loves pub quizzes) with the woman next to her vaping, and it smelling so gross she wants to kill her, “For a second I understand how people let their whole life be ruined in one second”. Victim brings up questions about fault and blame, about ‘good’ people and ‘bad’ people and reminds us that the distances we think there are between us and certain members of society may not be so great after all.