Review: Anne-Marie Duff and Louise Brealey in the grimy epic Husbands and Sons, National Theatre
Theatre hottie of the month: October edition

Review: The mind of a murderer in The State vs John Hayes at the King's Head Theatre

Lucy Roslyn, The State vs John Hayes (c) Jemma Gross (7)
Lucy Roslyn, The State vs John Hayes. Photo: Jemma Gross

Lucy Roslyn is Elyese Dukie. She is also John Hayes, her alter-ego. Elyese was abandoned by her mother and had a father who gets her to look down the barrel of his antique gun and asks if he should pull the trigger. But she's not looking for sympathy.

John Hayes is a wife and also the lover of Lorraine, and has landed her in jail and on death row.

Roslyn, who also wrote the piece, says she is going to tell us something that will make us laugh. And she does. But she also does something else.

Elyese/John's tale isn't a sob story of unfortunate circumstance and regret, at least she doesn't see it that way. It is a tale of someone who is confident, driven; someone for whom love is fierce and remorse an alien emotion. It makes her fun, likeable, unstable and dangerous.

You want to hang out with her but would be afraid to do so. She smiles and laughs, is witty and sharp in her observations and descriptions. She is a charmer, winking and flirting directly with the audience and it is easy to see how men and women would fall for her. She plays John Hayes for the women, leaves Elyese behind for them.

And then she turns in a moment sometimes railing against her alter ego, sometimes violent in her outbursts and sometimes fixing a look at the audience that is pure murder.

Elyese/John is complex and a contradiction. Lucid and mad. Naive and worldly-wise. Passionate about love and dispassionate about death. She plays John for her lovers to be liked, she is thorough and deadly. She will soon have to choose one of two options about her future and she goes through her choice pragmatically in a way that is actually painfully brave. The State vs John Hayes is funny, dark, grim and an utterly compelling piece of theatre.

It is an hour long and you can catch it at the King's Head Theatre until 22 November.