Permanent Marker

Review: Permanent Marker, Drayton Arms Theatre

Review: Permanent Marker, Drayton Arms Theatre

“It is both deeply upsetting and bizarrely hopeful – and utterly moving.”


Permanent Marker is a truly spectacular little play about trauma, coping and creativity.   

A 60-minute long monologue written by Claudia Vyvyan and starring recent Cambridge grad Flora MacAngus, it deals with themes as dark as they are important: experience of and recovery from sexual assault.  

Presented as a series of disconnected scenes divided with music and shoe changes, we see the protagonist at different stages of her life as she copes with eerily similar events. First, it is her boss. Then, a lover. Then, a partner. Whether it really is a monologue of one woman who keeps relieving the same experiences due to early trauma – or, as I prefer to believe, of an actress who literally and figuratively puts herself in different women’s shoes – is open to interpretation.  

There is no moral to this story. Its power lies precisely in the fact that there is no moral – there is no simple answer, no easy solution. The road out of the trauma is not bright and wide, nor does it lead outwards, Vyvyan seems to suggest. Instead, it is long and winding, and leading inward – the protagonist compares her own process of healing to kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold as if creating a brand new quality out of her traumatic experiences instead of running away from them.  

Permanent Marker is deeply introspective. Sometimes almost too introspective, too visceral, too real. But it is desperately needed to unsheathe the sheer terror of the act and the real toll it takes on the victim’s life.   

Flora MacAngus delivers the monologue with captivating sincerity. She appears to live and breathe her lines and possesses them completely – there are no illogical lacunas in her acting, no mishaps, no miscues. It’s sharp and brilliant.   

And it can be because the writing is sublime. The closer our heroine is to the truth, to her truth, the simpler the language becomes. Conversely, when we hear her using complex literary metaphors, she appears detached – dissociated even – from the situation, almost as if observing it from the outside. 

Ending the show is a wistful rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. But it so seems that our protagonist is interested in something beyond survival. By the end she appears to have discovered some odd beauty in her own experiences, or at least creative inspiration. It is both deeply upsetting and bizarrely hopeful – and utterly moving. 

Drayton Arms Theatre, ran 29-30 July.