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Villain review at Underbelly Medical Quad, Edinburgh – ‘scary and effective’

Maddie Rice in Villain at Underbelly, Edinburgh. Maddie Rice in Villain at Underbelly, Edinburgh.

A young woman, remarkable only in having more of a social conscience than many, wakes up one day to find herself vilified in the press, pursued by paparazzi and damned by internet trolls.

Villain eventually tells us why, and in general terms it is easily guessed early on, but the bulk of the hour is devoted to the ordinary and happy life that the woman led before the sky fell in on her.

The thrust of Martin Murphy’s play and Maddie Rice’s performance is that it really can happen to anyone, even someone who, after the good fortune of finding a well-paying job right out of university, chose to turn instead to good works, becoming a social worker and taking real pleasure in the little she could do for the families she visited.

In telling her story the playwright repeatedly approaches the dark turning point only to pull back, and the actress uses these opportunities to show a mind gathering up its courage to address what it knows it must. Performing in traverse in a small room, Rice is always just inches from the audience, and effectively pitches her performance someplace between conversation and internal monologue.

When the play finally does face the dragon, it may be a little too rushed and abrupt, but up to that point things move at exactly the right pace to keep the audience’s attention and sympathy.

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Monologue that scarily and effectively shows how life can be shattered by public vilification, however unearned