Directed by Lisa Goldman with stage adaptation by Patrick Prior, this harrowing tale set in the East End tells the story of Maura (played by Claire-Louise Caldwell), the youngest of four children in an Irish family that is quickly gaining a reputation as a fierce band of ambitious criminals. Starting off as an innocent and playful East End girl, a series of terrible tragedies mark her transformation into a hard-bitten gangland boss. James Clyde stars as her psychopathic brother and partner-in-crime Michael, with her staunch Catholic mother played by Veronica Quilligan.
‘Dangerous Lady’ is a typically brutal example of Martina Cole’s work, and the stage version takes no prisoners and pulls no punches – there are incredibly graphic scenes of physical violence and an on-stage body count that almost reaches double figures (in fact there’s a warning on the doors to the auditorium to that effect, posted for the benefit of those with a nervous disposition).
The performances throughout are superb – Clyde is convincing as the cruel Kray-esque mastermind (who also has a penchant for boys rather than girls) and Cordwell and Quilligan make for a perfectly believable mother and daughter team. In fact the whole family unit has a great on-stage chemistry, aided by some very creditable acting turned in by the rest of the ensemble cast who fill out the roles of friends, lovers, gangsters, detectives, doctors and priest!
Is it perfect? Not quite, although you have to lay this at the feet of Martina Cole – an early decision by mother and daughter struck me as odd given the heavy religious implications, and I’m not sure I was entirely convinced by the relatively happy ending given all that had gone before. That being said, I can’t fault ‘Dangerous Lady’ in terms of its entertainment value – it might even appeal to the ‘Die Hard’ movie crowd given the levels of violence involved!
This adaptation of ‘Dangerous Lady’ marks the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Martina Cole’s first novel, and it is the third of her books to be dramatised at the Theatre Royal – performances of ‘Two Women’ and ‘The Graft‘ took place in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
Tickets for ‘Dangerous Lady’ are priced from £5 to £20. Tonight (Wednesday 24 October) is a Gala night with Martina Cole herself in attendance, and she will also be taking part in a post-show Q & A on Thursday 8 November. Accessible performances take place on Saturday 10 November at 2:30pm (captioned) and Saturday 17 November (BSL interpreted).