The cast of BBC's Maryland

BBC’s Maryland: This powerful drama about violence against women is the most important thing you’ll watch this week

This unflinching adaptation of Lucy Kirkwood’s play is a must-watch. Ahead of its premiere on Wednesday, here’s what you need to know. 

If you watch one thing this week, make sure it’s Maryland. This BBC Two adaptation of Lucy Kirkwood’s eviscerating play (not to be confused with the upcoming Suranne Jones drama of the same name) explores how violence against women has been normalised in our culture.

Written in the aftermath of the death of schoolteacher Sabina Nessa last year, the one-off adaptation promises to be a gruelling but necessary watch. It tells the story of two ‘everywomen’ whose paths cross in a police station. 

Here’s what you need to know beforehand… 

Maryland BBC
Mary is played by Hayley Squires

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What is Maryland about? 

The drama opens as two women, who are both named Mary, meet at a police station following their respective sexual assaults. They are then taken through the process of reporting the crime by police officers PC Moody and PC Eddowes. In a nod to Greek tragedy, they are joined by a group of Furies, who underline the injustices that women face, both within the story itself and on a broader level. 

Kirkwood has described her play as “a howl against the way we have normalised violence against women as something to be accommodated by women themselves, rather than protested by all of us” and “the way that women, especially women of colour, cannot at present even rely on the forces of law and order to protect or respect their bodies.

She was driven to write it in response to real-life violence against women, including the murders of Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman and Sabina Nessa, and has said that she hopes “the film will give new oxygen to that protest, but I wish it was not still such an urgent conversation.” 

Maryland BBC
Fury played by Jennifer Joseph

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Who stars in Maryland?

Hayley Squires, who you might recognise from Apple TV+’s recent period drama The Essex Serpent or from Channel 4’s hard-hitting series Adult Material, will take the role of Mary, joined by Zawe Ashton as Also Mary. Ashton is probably best known for her brilliant turn as Vod in student comedy Fresh Meat, but has also notched up a string of roles in acclaimed series like The Handmaid’s Tale and Guerrilla, and will make her debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in The Marvels next year.

BBC Maryland
PC Moody played by Daniel Mays and the two Marys, played by Hayley Squires and Zawe Ashton

Line Of Duty star Daniel Mays plays PC Moody, the officer tasked with taking statements from the two women, while Justine Mitchell plays his colleague PC Eddowes. You might recognise Mitchell from her recent role as protagonist Frances’s mother in the BBC Three adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel Conversations With Friends.

Rounding out the cast are Zainab Hasan, Jennifer Joseph, Sarah Lam, Gabriella Leon and Sarah Woodward as the Furies. 

BBC Maryland
Mary (Hayley Squires) with PC Eddowes (played by Justine Mitchell)

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Who is Lucy Kirkwood? 

The acclaimed British playwright is best known for stage works like Chimerica, The Children and The Welkin, while her most recent play That Is Not Who I Am debuted at the Royal Court in London last month, initially presented under the pseudonym Dave Davidson. 

She has adapted Chimerica into a TV series for Channel 4 and also wrote Adult Material (which starred Squires) for the broadcaster. Her screen credits include a stint in the Succession writers room for the second season of the HBO hit, too. 

Maryland BBC
Hayley Squires and Zawe Ashton star in Maryland

When is Maryland on TV? 

The 30-minute adaptation will air on BBC Two on Wednesday 20 July at 10.05pm, and will then be available to stream on BBC iPlayer afterwards. Don’t miss it. 

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Images: BBC/Century Films Ltd/Sarah Weal