Watching Glory Die
- Flora Gosling
- 25 August 2019
A lacklustre biography of the harrowing life of Ashley Smith
In Judith Thompson's Watching Glory Die, Nathanya Barnett stars as Glory, based on real life teenager and prisoner Ashley Smith, whose mistreatment and consequent death brought to light the broken prison system in Canada.
The play consists of monologues from Barnett, Kelli Fox as Glory's mother, and Kathryn Haggis as a warden. Barnett's growling performance succeeds in being intimidating, but never fully convinces the audience of her insanity. Despite the shouting, cursing, and skin-crawling imagery of Thompson's script, it comes off as tame and a nervous. Fox's tenderness and abject denial of her daughter's wrong-doing is moving. Haggis's character has the most complexity, having her hands tied in terms of how she treats inmates, but also responsible for some of their unnecessary suffering. Unfortunately that complexity is not realised in her performance.
Thomson's script is devastating, but it is undermined by her direction and Kirsten Watt and Meaghan Carpentier's design. Directorial touches like having both Glory and her mother act electrocuted when Glory is tased feel out of place in the otherwise fairly naturalistic performance. What's worse is in the final climactic scene of the performance, the distracting piano score spoils the tension completely. As gripping and tragic as Smith's story is, this production doesn't have enough bite.
Assembly Rooms, run ended.