THE panto season hasn’t quite started yet; but Rona Munro’s new short play for this autumn’s Play, Pie and Pint lunchtime season offers a blackly humorous prologue to a season stuffed with fairy tales which are often, in their original form, much more dark and sinister than they are sweet and magical.
Set in a police interview room somewhere near Aberdeen, Guilty involves an increasingly chilling confrontation between a harassed-looking Detective Black, played with style by Lesley Hart, and Louise Ludgate’s superb Blanca, a weird child-woman of 40 or so kitted out in red dress, white cardie and frilly white socks. Blanca is there to make a statement about the sudden disappearance of her hated stepmother Bunty; and as she begins to guess at the details of Detective Black’s own troubled private life, it soon becomes clear that Blanca is not so much a harmless eccentric as a primal force of ancient family hatred, on the loose in the modern world of the police procedural.
Guilty still seems like a slightly embryonic play; towards the end, its darkness runs out of control, and even at 45 minutes, it becomes slightly repetitive. At its best, though, it combines sharp observational comedy about the absurdities of 21st century life with a deep sense of the unresolved primal tensions that plague so many modern step-families. And it’s a short step from there to the world of poisoned apples and spell-struck iron dancing-shoes in which Ludgate’s terrifying Blanca lives; and into which she soon lures the troubled detective, without mercy or conscience.