Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

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A packed house on opening night spoke volumes of the anticipation for the drama Innocence of Guilt: The Mary Lynch Story, which premièred at the Jamaican Shopping Theatre in St Andrew on Sunday.

Based on one of the most publicised murders and trials of its time, the Michael Dawson script spells out the circumstances leading up to the murder of prominent Kingston banker Leary Lynch, and the trial, conviction, incarceration and subsequent release of his wife Mary in connection with the gruesome killing.

The one-woman show features award-winning actress Rosie Murray, who presents Mary's story in a two-hour-plus monologue.

In 1992 Mary Lynch was charged with the murder of her 54-year-old husband. The post-mortem report stated that his death was as a result of 25 chop wounds. Mary Lynch testified that she was attacked by her late husband and, during a struggle, she got hold of the machete and inflicted several wounds. She was found guilty of murder by a 12-member jury and sentenced to life in prison without parole. After 14 years behind bars at the Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre, she was released in May 2007. This came after several appeals and the courts deemed that she was no longer a danger to society.

The script, which is based on interviews with Mary Lynch, has her endorsement. In fact, she sat quietly in a corner of the theatre out of the glare of the spotlights to take in the opening-night performance.

The script takes pains to present what she said was an abusive marriage and seeks to dispel the thought that she was a “ghetto girl,” who had been rescued by the Barbadian banker, and that she killed him for money.

There is no doubt that the story is engaging. In a local theatre culture which relishes comedy, presenting a strong drama is indeed a breath of fresh air.

One must admit that in a work such as this, opening night never brings forth the strongest performances. There are kinks to be worked out, lines to memorise and a rhythm and groove to be found. So both Murray and the crew have some work to do to bring this story that has tremendous potential to life. Given her acting chops a few more runs and Murray should have this one in the bag.

However, part of the work involves Dawson's script.

Given that it is a one-woman show, Murray does not have castmates on whom she can bounce lines and cues, so there has to be some shaving of extraneous lines which at times make it seem she is performing ad lib and has somehow lost her way.

More creative literary and theatrical devices could have been used to bring the script to life, creating more memorable moments. Dawson only has to look at his treatment of the scene involving the fateful act, and the audience reaction to see where he needed to go. In short, bring more scenes to life rather than just have Murray tell the story.

Jamaicans who were aware of the incident will find this work absolutely engaging, while youngsters will be treated to this moment in history.

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