Aalst – Duncan McLean from original texts by Pol Heyvaert and Dimitri Verhulst


New Scot­tish ver­sion first per­formed at Tramway, Glas­gow, on Wednes­day March 21, 2007.

Orig­i­nal Cast:

Cathy Delaney                 Kate Dickie
Michael Delaney
             David McKay
Voice (off­stage)                Gary Lewis

Direc­tor:  Pol Hey­vaert
Assis­tant Direc­tor:  David Over­rend
Sound Engi­neer:  Matthew Pad­den
Stage Man­ager:  Paul Claydon

Pub­li­ca­tion:  McLean, Dun­can. Aalst. Methuen Drama, 2007. Drama Library PR6063.A2486 A64 2007.

Set­ting:  The play is per­formed on a bare stage with the two actors seated in chairs with micro­phones in front of them.

Lan­guage:  Contemporary


He slapped me in the face, burnt me with cig­a­rettes, with a razor he… carved my legs up. And as well, in my pubic hair, he wrote the let­ter M.

Genre/Style:  Drama

Plot:   In Jan­u­ary 1999, a Bel­gian cou­ple checked into a motel with their two chil­dren, aged seven and three months.  A week later, the chil­dren were found dead in the room.  The three-month-old girl had been suf­fo­cated and the seven-year-old boy had been stabbed with a pair of scis­sors.  The par­ents were arrested and a Bel­gian judge sen­tenced them to life in prison.  The play, trans­planted to Scot­land, is a fic­tion­al­ized exam­i­na­tion of the par­ents, now named Cathy and Michael Delaney, which moves beyond the bare facts of the case in order to try to under­stand how two young peo­ple who appear to be, on the sur­face, non-violent losers could mur­der their own chil­dren. The play refuses to see them as vic­tims, despite their his­tory of child­hood abuse, but it doesn’t out­right con­demn them for their heinous actions.




Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mono­logues:  Mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.

p.26–27:  Cathy tells the Voice what hap­pened the night her son, Matthew, was killed.  Very long mono­logue, can be edited. 


I went down­stairs for a packet of cig­a­rettes, and then I lay on the bed… I woke up. I heard noises in the street out­side— traf­fic, singing— and then I thought:  it’s true, I’m not at home, we’re in a hotel room.

[Lines cut]

My father always used to light a cig­a­rette just after he had come inside me. And I’d look at him, lying on his back, slowly blow­ing smoke at the ceil­ing. Smok­ing is a form of sigh­ing. I was twelve when I started smok­ing, and I smoked my first cig­a­rettes exactly like my dad did. I blew the smoke out just like him.

If our Matthew gets a bit older, he’ll end up a smoker too.’ That’s what I was think­ing then.

p.27–28:  Michael tries to explain why they killed their kids. Long mono­logue, can be edited.


What were we sup­posed to do? Every par­ent wants the best for their kid. When I was a wee boy, my mother used to slap me in the face, and straight after she’d say, ‘That’s cos I love you.’ I’m telling you, every par­ent wants the best for their kid.

[Lines cut]

There aren’t many things I know for sure, but one thing I do know is: no one will ever put any of my kids in a home. Over my dead body.

What were we sup­posed to do? We wiped out our kids. Don’t tell me we didn’t want the best for them.




Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Scenes: 

p. 18–22:  The Voice inter­ro­gates Michael about the death of his infant daugh­ter, Ellie. Starts with


Was she asleep, or was she cry­ing, or…?

and ends with


Yes, and then I told her she was a child murderer!

p.46–48:  Cathy and Michael offer up last defenses for their actions.  Starts with


I’ve been hurt too! It’s strange, isn’t it, sir, we were never taught any­thing about ‘life’ at school. Never. All you got was: ‘What’s the cap­i­tal of Peru?’

and ends with


I would like to say that I miss my chil­dren very much and that I’m very sorry about what hap­pened. And that I wish I could turn the clock back, because what we did was not exactly brilliant.



Select Bib­li­og­ra­phy of Reviews and Crit­i­cism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

Brown, M. (2007, Mar 26). Stac­cato descent into mur­der. The Daily Tele­graph, pp. 029.

Cooper, N. (2007, Mar 26). The­atre aalst, tramway, gal­way 4/5. The Her­ald, pp. 18. R

Gard­ner, L. (2007, Mar 17). The guide: The­atre: Aalst glas­gow. The Guardian, pp. 39.

Gough, S. (2008, Feb 2). Mon­ster cou­ple a pro­found act. The Courier Mail (Aus­tralia), pp. 50.

Hal­lett, B. (2008, Jan 1). How to remake a killing; the­atre. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald, pp. 27.

Har­row­ing look at human cru­elty. (2008, Jan 24). Can­berra Times, pp. 8.

Koenig, R. (2007, Apr 23). A mur­der mys­tery with­out moti­va­tion ; the­atre ++ AALST ++ soho the­atre LONDON. The Inde­pen­dent, pp. 1.

Mar­lowe, S. (2007, Apr 23). Aalst. The Times, pp. 17.

McMil­lan, J. (2007, Mar 30). The death of inno­cence:  Is there such a thing as out­right evil? This infan­ti­cide drama doesn’t pro­vide an answer, but it is cer­tainly a highly com­pelling way of ask­ing the ques­tion. The Scots­man, pp. 14.

Smith, G. (2007, Dec 21). Shed­ding light on dark crime:  Syd­ney fes­ti­val 2008. The Daily Tele­graph (Aus­tralia), pp.72.

Turpin, A. (2007, Mar 18). When the under­class kills chil­dren. The Sun­day Times, pp. 7.

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