As he’s dying of alcoholism, Myra’s father warns her to resist the lure of “the beast” when it inevitably comes for her. Tragically, she can’t, and over the course of this impassioned monologue, she reveals how it leaves her begging on the streets like so many others.
Writer Brian Foster was inspired by the guilt he felt at ignoring a homeless woman in Dublin. Myra’s story, which follows a familiar path from troubled childhood through to loss and addiction, is symbolic of so many others.
It’s vividly brought to life by Fionna Hewitt-Twamley, in a virtuoso performance that has rightly won acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe and elsewhere. From the moment she begins, trembling under a blanket, she wholly embodies Myra and brings colourful life to the many characters she encounters along the way.
There is nothing especially surprising in her journey. It’s been over 20 years since the piece was first seen (it’s set largely in the 70s), and in that time we’ve become all too used – perhaps numbed – to the familiar cycle of grief, poverty and addiction. But the monologue is rich in telling, and often surprisingly funny, detail. A stand-out scene is when Myra describes her first encounter with alcohol, in which she gives voice to the Russian vodka bottle and a garden gnome doing his best to intervene.
It’s vibrant and lyrical, feeling at times like listening to a character straight out of James Joyce’s Dubliners. Myra describes her fellow addicts as a “community of wine connoisseurs”; a friend is convinced he’s a great author despite needing a dictionary “to check the plural of sheep”. But the underlying message is deadly serious and sobering: this could be any one of us.