Reviewed by Richard Lane
Joanna Murray-Smith is possibly more famous than Australian theatrical treasure David Williamson. The acerbic critic Alison Croggan certainly thinks she is funnier.
The Female Of The Species is more than just a comedy-it is a farce cum satire which pokes fun at the post pop-feminism revolution .
Famous women’s feminist author Margot Mason has written a string of best sellers including her seminal work, The Cerebral Vagina. She is visited by ex student Molly Rivers whose mother gave her away as a baby so she would not be caught up in the “drudgery” of motherhood. Molly had herself sterilised so she could not become a mother.Molly produces a gun, handcuffs Mason to her desk and threatens to shoot her for twisting her mother’s mind so much with her feminist tracts, that she committed suicide while holding a copy of The Cerebral Vagina. The plot is based on an incident when iconoclastic feminist author Germaine Greer was held to ransom, handcuffed and threatened with being shot in her own home by a gun- toting deranged former student.
Eric Strauts’ production is stylish, witty, fast-paced and hilariously funny. The women need something to play off so the three men who arrive singly through the doors, wet husband Bryan, macho taxi driver Frank and Mason’s gay publisher Theo are stereotypes, and the women have a field day. Strauts’ clever direction makes the most of the comic lines which come thick and fast.
The delightful set designed by Denis Noble is elegant and entirely appropriate for this production as is the lighting by Richard Parkhill. The ensemble cast is uniformly terrific, with Gayle Hammond flamboyant and funny as Margot Mason, Eleanor Stankiewicz excellent as the fruitcake Molly, and Alicia Zorkovicz’s (Mason’s daughter Tess) comic timing is spot on. As Tess’ husband Bryan, Steve Marvanek is suitably dopey and when spouting a bit of woman- worship, Bryan has the best comic line in the play when he says of wife Tess, “I always mounted you on a pedestal.” Constantino Dias Mendes as cabbie Frank is overtly “blokey” and Denis Noble plays the in –your- face gay publisher Theo with relish.
This play is not really about feminism but this production of it is certainly about entertainment.