Spent a lovely evening this week at the opening night of Queensland Theatre Company’s first up for Season 2008. It’s Joanna Murray-Smith’s Female of the Species, a new wave look at old feminism, and my, how we laughed. The sacred cows flew gently and not so gently upwards under the direction of Kate Cherry, soon to be westward-ho as the new Artistic Director of Black Swan Theatre Company in Perth. We will miss you Kate.
Murray-Smith’s so-close-to-riotous-that-it’s-almost-dangerous play is farcical in the true sense of the word. It’s stuffed with physical routines and improbably self-absorbed characters worthy of the Marx Brothers at their best. There’s also the requisite totemic object (the gun in the living room) and surprises in the set. Someone tried to define farce once as a world in which the central character is in the middle of a dreadful nightmare, or appears to be the only sane person in a world gone mad. Uh huh. Whose nightmare world is Female of the Species? Well, really, everyone’s as it turns out. The cast sailed close to the wind for most of the night, tacking and weaving adroitly through a witty gabfest of one-liners, groaning clichés and very good monologs … these mini-arias were brilliant little gems that gave every character a chance to play to the balcony.
Broadway gets the opportunity in April to see the play with Annette Bening in the Carol (Margot Mason) Burns role. BTW Ms Burns had the audience right THERE from the moment she pulled off a beautiful one-handed phone-conversation schtick … you try removing and disposing of your bra with a flick of the wrist while fully dressed.
The fact that the play turned out to be so unexpected in tone was telling in more ways than one. I think it could be the first feminist comedy I’ve seen which is also a comedy about feminism. The fact that it retains a compassionate heart and cool head beneath its crazily satirical skin is proof of the writer’s grasp on her material.
Do see it if you want to laugh a lot. It’s at the Cremorne on Brisbane’s South Bank for a few more weeks. If you don’t recognise yourself or someone you know in The Female of the Species, well you’re just not looking hard enough!