I adore this play by Irish playwright Marina Carr. It’s a couple of years now since I first read it and it’s been sheer pleasure to dive into its rich language and beautiful imagery again today.
Woman and Scarecrow is a play about a woman who is dying young, leaving eight children and a ridiculously unfaithful husband behind her. The person she has at her side is Scarecrow: her alter ego or perhaps a figment of her imagination. While the woman readies herself for death, Scarecrow rages at her for giving up on herself.
This is a play about dying and about living fully. It’s funny and stark, terrifying and beautiful. Perhaps the most frightening image is death, in the form of a giant crow, waiting in the cupboard to come for the woman:
SCARECROW: You think all the dead were ready? That thing will eat you alive. He doesn’t care. I’ve seen him in action. He’s in there now making a bracelet out of infant anklet bones.
Later, as Scarecrow and Woman talk about death the images become more confronting:
WOMAN: Waking in the coffin with the serpent at my breast … yes, I’m afraid of that.
SCARECROW: Or the rats boring through the plywood, their paws on your face.
WOMAN: My belly a pudding of worms.
SCARECROW: And you awake the whole time. Watching the serpent and the rat and the worms have their smelly feast.
You can read this play and be provoked to think about life’s big questions, or you can simply immerse yourself in the glorious imagery. Images like a woman “battering the spuds into a venomous pulp”.
There’s a rich thread of humour that runs through Woman and Scarecrow as well, particularly in the characters of HIM (the husband who has his lover waiting in the car outside while his wife is dying) and AUNTIE AH (the sort of piously vicious maiden aunt that fiction adores).
But the laughter is there to make you think harder and to make the subject darker.
WOMAN: This is a different leaving.
SCARECROW: It certainly is. We’re not talking a few years here. We’re talking never. Never. We’re talking the five nevers and the four howls.
I hope I’ll have a chance to see this in production one day. I imagine it would be magnificent on stage.
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Cast: 3F, 1 M