Book review: Watching Glory Die by Judith Thompson

Watching Glory Die

“Watching Glory Die” is one act play written by a Canadian playwright Judith Thompson, who was inspired by the tragic death of nineteen year-old Ashley Smith. Ashley Smith died of self-inflicted strangulation, while being on a suicide watch at Grand Valley Institution for Women. Her death caused many questions and resulted in a legal inquest and criminal negligence charges against the warden and deputy warden. The trial stretched for several years and eventually her death was ruled as a homicide.

The play portrays the injustice and mistreatment of women, and more so the treatment of mentally ill inmates, within the judicial system. The story is delivered from three women’s perspective: a teenaged inmate Grace, who suffers from hallucinations; her adoptive mother Rosellen; and a working-class guard Gail.

 

The cruelty and injustice of everything that Glory is going through is truly jarring to read. Just like Ashley Smith, Glory is initially arrested and imprisoned at the age of fourteen for throwing an apple at the postman. She is systematically abused by the guards, who take her every action as a reason to charge her again and again, increasing her sentence time. Glory spent years in prison and by the time the play takes place, she has been there for five years and is now truly lost in her hallucinations. She talks incoherently, keeps envisioning her birth mother as a crocodile who is going to come and drag her into a swamp; and has self-harm tendencies which eventually lead to her death.

 

The script is less than fifty pages long, but I found even those very hard to read. The injustice of everything that is happening, not only against Glory, but also other women in the play, is hard to swallow, especially since it is not fiction, but reality. It is very powerful play both for its language and its topic, and I encourage you to read it, as it brings the awareness to the treatment of women and mentally ill inmates in prisons. In the words of Gail: “This whole place is fucking crazy. Like the world turned upside down.”

 

It is definitely not the kind of play that would keep you guessing about the ending or that you would want to read over and over again, but it is very important as it serves as a reminder of the issues that still exist in the correctional system.

 

*I have received the copy of this play from Playwrights Canada Press in exchange of a free and honest review.

Personal rating: 4 stars

 

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