Peace MomWritten by Nobel laureate Dario Fo and his late wife Franca Rame, and directed by Sergio Amigo, Peace Mom is based on the real life and writings of Cindy Lee Sheehan. Sheehan is an American wife and mother who lost her son Casey, a specialist in the US Army, to enemy action during the Iraq war on 4 April 2004. Motivated by grief, anger and injustice, Sheehan began a momentous anti-war protest against President George W. Bush and his government. She consequently became a founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, an organisation for families who lost members in the Iraq war, and an international peace icon. This protest included the creation of a makeshift camp outside Bush’s holiday ranch in Crawford, Texas on 6 August 2005, where she intended to stay until she was granted a face-to-face meeting with the president.

This is where the play is set, in a dusty ditch by the road, with Stephanie Ellyne portraying the eponymous grieving mother hell-bent on justice not just for her own son, but for all other sons lost in an unjust and illegal war waged under a false pretence. This one-woman play is a tapestry of Sheehan’s letters to the president, interwoven with fictitious contemplations and reveries.

Ellyne is thrilling to watch. From experience I have learnt that an audience’s attention can wander just a few minutes into a monologue. But for a little over an hour, one woman had me completely transfixed. Let alone the impressive feat that is learning over 60 minutes’ worth of lines, they trip off her tongue as though she had happened upon this tiny theatre and just decided to start talking. It was tender, poignant, volatile and at times so palpably sad I felt the sting of tears behind my own eyes as well as witnessing them behind hers.

Watching the emotions flit across Ellyne’s face is almost a show in itself, as if one could almost see the sentimental weight of her sentence before she even uttered a word. Ellyne possesses a maternal quality that only served to increase the depth of reality and further validate the grief and anger in which the show is already rooted. She will sob, laugh and scream at the audience at the top of her lungs – jarring in such a small room, but obscenely effective. The show ends on an almost unbearably poignant note with a letter to Barbara Bush, George W.’s mother, begging her to talk some sense into her war-waging son, who, in Sheehan’s words; “…can’t breathe the oxygen of truth but only the smoke of oil wells burning in the distance.” Heartbreakingly well-written, tear-jerkingly acted, and fiercely unapologetic. A definite must-see.

Peace Mom is playing at the Calder Bookshop Theatre until 7 July. For more information and tickets please visit the Calder Bookshop website.