In Praise of Fiona Shaw


Colm Toibin discussing the novella The Testament of Mary, patiently and charmingly made clear that once a book is published and out in the world it is out of the author’s hands as a woman repeatedly took him to task over the imagery used to advertise the play made from the novella and starring Fiona Shaw. It was the crown of thorns across her mouth I think  she objected to.

Fiona Shaw’s face behind the crown of thorns used as a gag is disturbing and arresting. Perhaps she just has a strong face but it makes her look like Christ.
She was a tour de force in the Testament of Mary stage production at the Barbican but I preferred the less mad Mary I had envisioned from reading the book. Somewhere between the two, perhaps.

The Guardian, Tuesday 20 May 2014 23.33 BST

‘Among the many fine things to come out of Cork are crubeens (pigs’ trotters), the short-story writers Frank O’Connor and Sean Ó Faoláin and the actor Fiona Shaw; the last is displaying her characteristic sense of adventure on stage in The Testament of Mary. In line with the demands of Colm Tóibín’s original novella, Shaw presents us with a mother of Christ who is, by turns, angry, sceptical, guilt-ridden and grief-stricken, and who fiercely resents the appropriation of her son. This is typical of a restlessly exploratory career that, in tandem with director Deborah Warner, has led Shaw to play an emotionally arrested Richard II, a biliously pregnant Hedda Gabler and an unusually resilient Mother Courage. Some actors take the stage by default; Shaw invariably takes it by storm and is unafraid to make bold choices and bare both body and soul. In an age of cross-gender casting, one has to speculate on what she’d be like as King Lear.’