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.

Ditch – Beth Steel


London opening at The Old Vic Tunnels on May 13, 2010.

Original Cast:

Mrs. Peel (58-years old)            Dearblha Molloy
Megan (20-years old)                 Matti Houghton
Burns (early 50s)                        Danny Webb
Bug (Late 30s)                            Paul Rattray
Turner (Late 30s)                       Craig Conway
James (20-years old)                  Gethin Anthony

Director:  Richard Twyman
Design:  takis
Lighting:  Matt Prentice
  Christopher Shutt
Music:  Tom Mills

Publication:  Steel, Beth. Ditch. Methuen Drama, 2010. Drama Library PR6119. T437 S74 2010.

Setting:  The Peak District (central and northern England); the future.

Language:  Some regional dialect and lingo


They hole up in ’em before makin’ their way just north a’ there to the Pennine Way, leads all the way up to the Scottish border. Most a’ the time that’s where the cunts a’ headin’, Scotland.

Genre/Style:  Drama

Plot:   In the future, most of Britain is underwater; civilization is on its last legs before a global war;  the British government has become a fascist regime already at war in Venezuela; women’s reproductive  rights are non-existent; and bands of Security men patrol the countryside looking for Illegals—mostly pregnant women—since pregnancy is illegal—who are trying to escape the country. Against this backdrop, Megan and James meet at a rural outpost she helps an older woman maintain for the men stationed there.  Although the outlook for the future is bleak—and details about the present a bit murky in the script—the people of the outpost fight to restore some semblance of a society and connect with one another on a basic human level.  The play works best in those intimate moments between two people:  two soldiers trying to plan a better future, two young lovers connecting for the first time, two older persons trying to find happiness in a world gone mad.




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.40-41:  James tells Megan how he and his father used to attend protest meetings after things fell apart, but that gradually they stopped going for fear of Security men breaking up the meetings;  and now, he’s Security, and he’s been breaking up meetings like that. 


Sat there listenin’ mostly s’what I done.  Reminded me a’ when I used to go meetin’s with my dad. It been after the Breakdown that. There’d be about fifty a’ us, standin’ or sittin’ in  pokey terrace. I just been a kid, been there listenin’.  [Lines cut] This past year I been the one who’s breakin’ up meetin’s… they still have ’em in terraces, but they younger who go to ’em… aint been any less a’ ’em each time we went back… I’m talkin’ again… shouldn’t get used to it.

p.41:  Megan tells James about the time Mrs. Peel planted rhubarb and made rhubarb juice out of it, and the lesson Megan learned about enjoying things while they last and not crying when they’re gone.


When I planted the rhubarb Mrs Peel told me she was gonna make a rhubarb juice with it when it was ready. I never had rhubarb juice before but she told me it’s like apple juice but better and I really like apple juice.  [Lines cut] Rhubarb’s gonna be ready next month and Mrs Peel promised me she gonna make juice with it. When it’s gone it’s gone. I know that now. I just have to enjoy it whilst its there.

p.91:  Megan recalls a time when Mrs. Peel killed and cooked a hare that still seemed to be alive. Short monologue.


There been a time when you and me were out here workin’, and you spotted a hair munchin’   away at your salad leaves. You snuck up behind and grabbed hold a’ it. [Lines cut] I couldn’t stop lookin’ at them chunks cause they were movin’. Jitterin’, like they were cold or something’. You put the heat on ’em and I say to you: them chunks are still alive! You say: they dead they just don’t know it yet.


I feel like I’m alive and I just don’t know it yet.



Representative Scenes: 

p. 26-29:  Megan and James hang out in the stables getting to know one another.  This is part of a longer scene and can be either lengthened or shortened.  Burns’ and Megan’s and James’ lines near the end can be cut.  Starts with


How much schoolin’ you had?


(Offstage.) James?


I gotta go.


He’s just callin’ he aint comin’ here.


(Offstage.) James?]

and ends with


S’all same to me.

p.51-54:  James and Megan deal with the news that he’s being sent to the front in Argentina.  Starts with


Dint know if you were gonna come.

and ends with


Ssshh. Want you to make love to me.




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, G. (2010, May 30). No lights at the end of this tunnel. Mail on Sunday, pp. 23.

Clapp, S. (2010, May 23). Review:  Critics:  Theatre:  A serious example of tunnel vision:  Life in post-apocalypse britain is being played out under waterloo station:  Ditch the old vic tunnels , London SE1: Marine Parade The Old Market, Brighton. The Observer, pp. 39.

Gardner, L. (2010, Jun 2). Review:  Theatre:  Ditch old vic tunnels, London 3/5. The Guardian, pp. 34.

Hart, C. (2010, May 23). The old vic’s ditch has a splendidly gloomy setting, but the apocalyptic vision fails to thrill. The Sunday Times, pp. 21.

Hemming, S. (2010, May 21). Ditch. Financial Times, pp. 13.

Lukowski, A. (2010, May 27). Theatre:  Reviews:  Ditch. Time Out, pp. 116.

Marlowe, S. (2010, May 24). Ditch; Theatre. The Times, pp. 52.

Spencer, C. (2010, May 21). A chilling vision of the future. The Daily Telegraph, pp. 33.

Taylor, P. (2010, May 28). Theatre:  Ditch old vic tunnels, London. Independent Extra, pp. 16.