The State vs John Hayes details the final hour of the convicted murderess/murderer (I say this as she brings a whole new meaning to idea of gender neutrality and fluidity of persona) Elyese Dukie as she awaits the electric chair. Over the course of this hour we are taken through the stream of conscious thought that follows as Elyese recounts the events leading up to her imprisonment.
It is clear early on that It is not just Elyese who is speaking to us but another persona altogether. The boyish charm and sexually charged persona of John Hayes (Elyese’s father) can be identified by the intense glare that she throws as she locks eyes with the audience.Throughout the jumbled monologue of Hayes we also see glimpses of Elyese’s impassioned and emotive nature. However just like Hayes,Elyese is a flawed character.Having suffered abuse at the hands of domineering men in her life, she has buried herself deeper and begun to take on the persona of her commandeering father John Hayes.
All the while these vulnerabilities give her a hint of danger, she inhabits the ruthlessness of Hayes while still retaining the emotion and passion that allows her to act upon her (albeit reckless) feelings. Lucy Roslyn (who also wrote the play) presents us with the multi layered and vulnerable character of Hayes/Dukie with a brilliant performance that leads us further into Dukie’s tangled web of personas and leaves the audience feeling not only manipulated but also unable to judge who Elyese Dukie really is.
Whilst at times the play itself can be difficult to understand, as it jumps from storyline to storyline leaving a trail of unanswered questions, this is exactly what makes it so enjoyable and more importantly memorable as it makes a shocking observation of the damaged psyche of a death row inmate.