The Female Of The Species Tickets
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Feminism has long been a profoundly touchy topic. The philosophy has been glorified by many as the preserver of womanhood, while others have derided it with great disdain. And, as often is the case with issues on gender polarity, no review is complete without the opposite gender's viewpoint. All these intricacies are perfectly dealt with in Roger Mitchell's sharp comedy The Female of the Species. The play meanders between pinching satire & hostage drama, & makes for a riveting sitting. The Female of the Species is written by Joanna Murray-Smith, loosely based on the true incident of author Germaine Greer, who was handcuffed & held hostage in her home by a deranged fan. It was first performed in Australia in 2006, & the West End showing has been widely lauded.
The Female of the Species has feminist author Margot Mason as its protagonist. Margot is suffering from a serious bout of writer's block, unable to meet deadlines that keep whooshing past. She seems to have run out of ideas when a former student drops by. The innocuous Molly Rivers handcuffs her to her desk, in order to berate her regarding her work. One of Margot's heavily feminist works, The Cerebral Vagina, inspired Molly's mother to abandon her as a child to escape being enslaved by motherhood, & that led to her committing suicide. Even Molly is sterilized to preserve her creativity, as Margot preaches. The deranged student is soon joined by Tess (Margot's daughter) who, far from attempting a heroic rescue act, finds Molly's critiquing of her mother fairly compelling. Tess has been driven to the edge of her wits by her three infants. She uses her defiant behavior to counter Margot's accusations of losing her womanly freedom by embracing motherhood. Tess's husband, the meek businessman Bryan Thornton, arrives & discusses Margot's un-motherly conduct, her bestsellers' virtues, & her wild, controversially ideological rationales. A macho taxi driver with a grudge, Frank, gets involved, before Margot's quirky gay publisher, Theo, gets embroiled in the exchange of views. The disputatious characters swing to & fro in their arguments on Margot's feminist failings.
Writer Joanna Murray-Smith has taken great pains to insist that the play doesn't borrow from Big Brother celebrity Germaine Greer's incident. This has not stopped Greer from labeling the author as an "insane reactionary" & dismissing the work which is all very good for its publicity. Director Roger Mitchell, of Notting Hill fame, & who also directed the box office smash hit Changing Lanes, weaves his magic behind the camera again. Dame Eileen Atkins brings her world-renowned acting maturity to the fore once more in her portrayal of the ideological feminist, Margot. Molly is played by Anna Maxwell Martin, whereas the mood swings of distraught daughter Tess are perfectly portrayed by Sophie Thompson. The all-important male point of view in the raging feminist debate is provided by Paul Chahidi (Bryan), Con O' Neill (Frank), & Sam Kelly (Theo). Melbourne Theater Company produced the first premier in 2006 in Melbourne. The play was then shown at the Cremorne Theater in South Brisbane, & later in Perth & other parts of Western Australia in 2008. Patrick Nolan directed the play & David Chesworth provided the music, before West End's Vaudeville Theater had a premiere in July 2008. A planned 2008 Broadway production with Annette Benning has been postponed, although hopes are up that 2010 will be its breakthrough year.
The witticism & satire of the play has been roundly applauded. Margot's imperious self-admiring mindset is questioned amply by the defiant resolve of her daughter, & the strong disconcerting nature of her assailant. The characters' clash with shifting alliances, all tinged with satirical brilliance, before the play ascends into delightful farcical mayhem. The male viewpoint is amply portrayed, with the result that the feminist author's vanity is hilariously shot down. It is certainly debate-provoking work. A lack of a comprehensive ending to the play works just fine for the material. At 100 minutes without a break, the length is also perfectly trimmed.
Theater has time & again silenced its detractors with works that target a pertinent topic in a balanced manner. With all viewpoints covered comprehensively, The Female of the Species does not blurt out where its loyalties lie, but instead provides a thought-provoking insight, leaving audiences to judge the matter. Theater buffs wanting a spark of sprightly humor would do well to purchase The Female of the Species tickets as West End's latest gem creates a storm.
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