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Mary and Me review at Paradise in the Vault, Edinburgh – ‘huge delicacy and skill’

Mary and Me at Paradise in the Vault. Photo: Marcin Lewandowski Mary and Me at Paradise in the Vault. Photo: Marcin Lewandowski

In rural Ireland, a teenage girl visits a grotto alone in winter to speak to Mary. She has a secret nobody can know about, and Mary has a kind face.

Written and performed with huge delicacy and skill by Irene Kelleher, whose debut play this is, Mary and Me is a beautiful, one-woman show inspired by (though not based on) the story of Ann Lovett, a 15-year-old girl who died alone giving birth in 1984. The deaths of both Lovett and her baby shocked Ireland and made national news, but the conservative community she grew up in denied all knowledge of her pregnancy.

Kelleher’s character Hannah has, as Lovett did, an unhappy home life, and Kelleher deftly and unsensationally interweaves the reasons a young girl might feel she had to hide her pregnancy, moving between her family life, criticisms of the double standards of deeply religious communities and an evocation of small towns where the young feel watched.

Neatly directed by Belinda Wild with Paula Lynch’s beautiful, simple costumes marking the changing months, Mary and Me is a moving new play, with a fantastic performance from Kelleher, who also marks herself out as a writer to watch.

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Moving one-woman show sensitively written and deftly performed by promising Irene Kelleher