A searchlight strafes the auditorium. A girl in a slip trembles out of darkness. She speaks to the audience of birdsong; her words fade beneath the clatter of a helicopter’s blades.
The lives of the four Belfast women in Rona Munro’s 1991 play Bold Girls are intricately bound up with the Troubles: husbands, fathers, brothers – killed or imprisoned – are powerful absences. But it is not the Troubles that shape them. As Munro has said: “I don’t think the battles women fight, or the daily struggles they have in much of Belfast, are particularly different from those in any other area with bad housing or high unemployment – except that guns make a difference to everything.”
So, while its particular historical moment is past, the sharpness of the play still cuts because it is honed on the abrasive interdependencies of three generations: young widow Marie; her best friend, Cassie; Cassie’s mother, Nora; and the enigmatic, teenage Deirdre, whose identity wavers between eerie wraith and threatening interloper – all hard-hitting performances.
Munro’s play combines naturalism and symbolism – the mystery of Deirdre; characters slipping out of the action to speak to the audience. This poeticised structure highlights the universal aspects of their individual situations. If director Richard Baron’s choice of realistic period setting, beautifully realised in Neil Haynes’s design, tethers the drama too tightly to its context, in every other respect his production is acute and passionate.
• At the Citizens theatre, Glasgow, until 10 February. Box office: 0141-429 0022