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.