Greenstick Boy

Maggie Cronin returns to punk-era London for a spot of soul searching

Maggie Cronin's one-woman play Greenstick Boy debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008 and it’s clear that there are a number of 'fans' in the female-dominated audience tonight at the Black Box. It wouldn't be fair, however, to write the play off as some sort of 'ode to sisterhood'. In fact, the relationship at the heart of the story is one which (I say with my head nodding gently) the majority of us will relate to.

Cronin opens her show on a stage littered with boxes, books and Public Image and Blondie LPs. A letter to a friend introduces the old flame around whom the play is centered, D. Cronin’s character, M, is writing a letter to him after attending his mother’s funeral in London – the location for the play. Indeed, Cronin paints a vivid picture of 1970s London, and the sights and sounds that influence her character.

After a brief dalliance with his best friend, M embarks on a relationship with the aforementioned D. By all accounts, D is a gregarious, punk-loving individual, but one with a fatal flaw – an addiction to drugs that becomes more severe as time progresses.

Their relationship is turbulent, on-again, off-again, and in spite of M leaving home to study drama, returning to London to begin an acting career and pursuing a number of flings during this time, she continues to be drawn, like a moth to the flame, to D – with all his charisma, character and (despite his protests) a worsening drug habit.

Promises of abstinence are made in vain and the inevitable bitter end comes after D, ironically, enters a rehabilitation facility. As M sadly observes, 'Addicts lie and you died trying to face the truth.' It’s a sombre end to an otherwise relatively upbeat play.

Cronin is vivacious and engaging throughout and switches between the roles of her character, D and her mother with ease. Indeed it’s the ‘Irish mammy’ character that provides most of the laughs, with disgusted observations of M’s new boyfriend being 'very ginger' and derision at her daughter’s decision to study drama.

The other ‘character’ in the play is the music, with regular excerpts from The Sex Pistols, Kate Bush and The Human League adding atmosphere and dimension. While D and M share a love of punk, the musical accompaniment illustrates the passage of time between the various episodes in the play.

Greenstick Boy is well written, flowing easily between humorous and more weighty passages. It’s that notion of having found a ‘soulmate’ that rings true – that one difficult and bitter relationship which is so hard to walk away from. It seems unfair to blame punk, or any other type of music for that matter, especially as I suspect we actually quite enjoy the romance of it all.

Caroline Connor