TV & Movies

BBC’s Maryland Is A “Howl” Against Society’s Treatment Of Women

The one-off show is based on Lucy Kirkwood’s play of the same name.

Zawe Ashton is pictured stood against a brick wall wearing a fluffy beige coat and fawn turtleneck i...
Maryland / BBC

Maryland is playwright and screenwriter Lucy Kirkwood’s damning indictment of society’s acceptance of violence against women. Starting life as a play, it has now been adapted into an on-screen drama by the BBC. Stepping into the lead roles will be The Marvels’ Zawe Ashton and The Essex Serpent’s Hayley Squires. Speaking to the Guardian in October 2021, Kirkwood said that the idea “had been in my head for years as sketches and lines but Sabina Nessa’s death compounded everything and galvanised me – I felt like this had to happen now”. But, is it based on a true story, or is it a work of fiction?

Well, the answer is a bit of both. In her Guardian interview, Kirkwood explained that “There’s a vast tapestry in the play that is, unfortunately, rooted in real life. Every single thing in it is informed by something real – my experience or someone I know or something on the news”. Kirkwood echoed this sentiment, as she commented on the new film adaptation. “I wrote the play as a howl, a protest against the violence women are forced to reckon with in their everyday lives, and I hope the film will allow more people to share that protest.”

This isn’t the first time that Kirkwood has focussed her writing on trauma. In 2008, she wrote It Felt Empty When The Heart Went At First But It Is Alright Now. Centred around sex trafficking, it was nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. In the same year, she also wrote Hedda, which is her interpretation of the universally-known Hedda Gabler, which is considered to be one of the most complex female roles on stage.

In addition to the BBC adaptation, the play will soon be touring other UK theatres, starting in Birmingham on Saturday, November 20. Kirkwood and the Royal Court have also made the script available for free online.

Maryland will air on July 20 at 10:05 p.m. on BBC Two.