Sunday, 20 March 2011

Age of Arousal

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
"A shame that sex matters are so untidy," says one character in Canadian writer Linda Griffiths' 'wildy inspired' take on George Gissing's Victorian novel, The Odd Women, at one point. Previously, the characterin question, Hannah Donaldson's coquettish Monica, was the youngest,most flirtatious and sexually liberated of three sisters orbiting aroundproto-feminist Mary Barfoot and her young lover Rhoda Nunn, who run aschool providing emancipation via Remington typewriter. By the end of the play, Monica is trapped by the consequences of her own desires, and the thirty year road to sexual equality the women aspire to looks a lot further away.

There's nothing hidden in Muriel Romanes' production, which wears itssensuality on its sleeve in this alliance between Stellar Quines and the Lyceum. The title of each scene is projected onto a net curtain inold-school type-face before ushering in a series of playful liaisons aseach woman has their world rocked beyond the Remingtons. Molly Innes' twitchy Virginia finds comfort in a sharp suit in Berlin, while Clare Lawrence Moody's politically pure Rhoda's feelings get the better of her with Jamie Lee's once cock-sure Everard, the play's sole male presence.

Griffiths' rich dialogue is punctuated throughout with manic internal asides that throb with locked-up passion, the collective voices overlapping and counter-pointing each other to make gorgeous little vocal symphonies. Physically, there's a glorious archness beyond theplay's erotic pulse, with a wonderful scene of mass fainting ending the first act with a riot of feminine self-will. If sexual politics is evenmore complex and contrary today, being equal but different, it seems,has always been the way of things.

The Herald, February 21st 2011

ends

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