Everybody knows Myra. Or, at least, everyone has walked past a Myra – someone whose life has fallen apart to the point that they are living on the streets, a shell of their former self. It is all too easy to hear the hacking cough, see the dirty fingernails and spot the empty vodka bottle and walk on by, but everyone has a story to tell. And this is Myra’s Story, written by Derry playwright, Brian Foster, and inspired by some of the women who lived on the streets of his hometown.
Actress Fíonna Hewitt-Twamley cuts a lonely figure in this powerful one-woman play which has a raw humour, despite the dark subject matter. Myra has stayed the night in a hostel and has been rudely awakened by the manager asking her to rise and shine. “I’m dead, fuck off”, she replies. So begins a harrowing 90 minute tale of how she came to be here.
Hewitt-Twamley is fantastic and the writing by Brian Foster is clever. Although it is a one-woman show, the audience are introduced to a myriad of entertaining characters. Particularly memorable are the couple she meets in a GP surgery who provide some light relief in what is otherwise a hard-hitting play.
Homelessness is much more widely talked about than it was back when Foster wrote this play (originally titled Maire: A Woman of Derry) in 2002. Many theatre productions have covered the topic and that lessens the shock value, although certainly not the sympathies and sadness that it is still happening in the UK today. Having been swallowed by the beast of addiction, Myra lost everything she had and, although today the actress can take a bow to rapturous applause and Fringe-goers can get on their way to their next show, what Foster wants us to remember is that there are ‘Myras’ everywhere – and remember we shall.