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Maggie and Me - Review

Reviewed by Kathryn
Tickets were gifted in return for an honest review

Covering the story of Damien Barr, Maggie and Me takes us on a journey from Brighton 2008 back to 1980s Scotland and the political and social trauma Damien, and many others, faced. It is about a boy who was saved by stories - a boy who hid in libraries, a boy who was hurt by the stories told about him, a boy who grew up and told stories for a living but was scared of his own. 

Photo by Mihaela Bodlovic.

Produced by National Theatre of Scotland, the opening stage is set as an almost upmarket Aladdins Cave with metal racking filled with books, TVs, globes, boxes and other home nick-nacks. It gives a slightly commercial feel to the home study of Damien. 
We first meet Damien as a young boy (Sam Angell) with his mother (Nicola Jo Cully) in their Scotland home before adult’ Damien (Gary Lamont) arrives with partner Mike (Douglas Rankin) to start the story of his life through his memoirs. 
The small cast (above plus Beth Marshall, Grant McIntyre and Joanne Thomson) play a multitude of roles between them flitting between characters and accents whilst weaving the memories of Damien with his present day struggle to actually write. 
The set is cleverly designed and transforms from the study into an open space with crags in the background including a staircase to reach the top of the mound. The side racking remains in place hiding props with the central racking being utilised at different scenes to create partitions and barriers.

Photo by Mihaela Bodlovic.

The content of the play is raw, truthful and doesnt shy away from the topics of suicide, neonatal loss, sexual exploitation, child abuse, violence, alcoholism, religious bigotry and bullying. It doest apologise for society and lays the facts out of how things were in 1980/90s Britain with an honesty that is approachable and, sadly, relatable. 
Lighting (Katharine Williams) and sound (Susan Bear) work well together and are used to enhance the production as well as having their own dramatic moment which is neat. The use of live video throughout the piece gives an intimate view into the souls of the characters not always achieved by stage work. 
There is the possibility that the play is too long.  It nips along at a good pace but at times it felt some of the scenes were a touch too long. Whilst there was much to process and engage with, at a running time of close to three hours, there were moments of wanting to push through slightly. However, with so much to tell, its understandable that the writing team didnt want to take away from the story. 
Overall, a thought-provoking, well performed and well directed piece that should pull larger audience numbers of all demographics to understand and appreciate our recent history across Scotland and England. As the writer says, Stories are mirrors. I hope you glimpse something of your story in it and that you look over your shoulder and see you are not alone. Everybody in this theatre has a story. And stories are for everyone.

Maggie and Me plays at Royal and Derngate in Northampton until Saturday 8th June 2024 and then plays at Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh from Wednesday 12th until Saturday 15th June. Find out more details and booking information from

Photo by Mihaela Bodlovic.

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