(Brighton &) Hove Grown 2019
Myra Hindley, murderess , willing accomplice or browbeaten victim, gives an impassioned yet unapologetic account of her role in the Moors Murders in the early 60’s.
When she was only 20, Myra Hindley notoriously partnered-up with psychopath Ian Brady in both life and in murder. Together, between July 1963 and October 1965, they committed “The Moors Murders”; five children aged between 10 and 17, 4 of whom were also sexually assaulted. They were caught after two of the bodies were found in shallow graves on Saddleworth Moor, hence the byname… Another was recovered twenty years later after Hindley made a confession while in custody. The two others have never been found even though she confessed to the murders. Hindley was never released despite having “found God” and repeated pleas, she died in prison 8n 2002 aged 60.
Here, against the backdrop of chilling taped confessions, a lifetime of world defining events peppering the span of her incarceration, Myra, played with lacerating authenticity by Lauren Varnfield, attempts to explain her involvement in the murders to varying degrees of success.
This is uncomfortable confessional theatre where the audience are required to listen to justifications of a soul who touched the depths of depravity regardless of any lack of empathy we might feel for her.
Hindley was no doubt an unfortunate soul, rejected by her mother at 5, she found the love and attention she craved in the wild, charismatic, psychopathic figure of Ian Brady, who, after raping her on their first date, laid claim to her soul, like a warped Mephistopheles, from whose violent, yet pathetically entrancing clutches she could not escape… yet neither did she want to… She was a willing accomplice for depraved villain, ripe for the picking, seeing the devil in his eyes and loving him.
The fact that we sit in rapt silence and hear her confession despite the horrors that we are asked – required – to absorb is a testament to Varnfield’s, visceral, tautly-strung portrait which reveals honest vulnerability while refusing to beg forgiveness. We are thus faced with a simple question: “Does helping a monster make you one as well?” as she pleads.
The fact is that Hindley did not run from her truths, nor does she ask us to. Nor do we judge. We merely consider the simplicity of that question… and there is where the real drama of this work lies. It is the strength of Varnfield’s conviction playing Hindley that enables this piece to succeed. A lesser actor would likely fail, because the skeleton of this work is featherlight. We have the facts, a little mitigation and the central question and that is all… but the muscle is all Varnfield’s… and that is Myra’s saving grace.
The play is short – at forty-five mins, appropriate for the material on which it’s based and the case study that is Hindley, but Varnfield is a strong writer who recognises the limitations of her material and makes the very best of it. But she is also a superb actor that demands to be seen.