This tale of a feminist establishment writer held hostage by an aggrieved former student brushes lightly against some interesting issues without troubling any of them too much. A deeper look at any one of them - icon worship, gullibility, blame culture, male/female "roles" - might have yielded something more substantial. All the same, it's an entertaining 100 minutes with some good laughs. Sophie Thompson's performance has been overpraised, I reckon - it's good, but a bit overcooked. As has been mentioned, some of Eileen Atkins's reactions are great to watch. Everyone seems to be set up as a villain of sorts, then presented as quite sympathetic, resulting in them all coming out of it fairly well, which underlines the lightness of the piece. For an undemanding afternoon or evening, probably worth a go, especially if you can get a deal. Note - no interval. - Sycamore Flint
29 Sep 08
I'm not sure what Joanna Murray-Smith is trying to say with this play. To claim that the central character is not based on Germaine Greer is an insult to the intelligence and the ideas propounded seem reactionary in the extreme. It's fair enough to suggest that men are confused as to their role after 40 years of feminism and that women can feel guity if they do not aspire to Superwoman status but the suggestion that women might be happier with a return to the old sexist stereotypes is bizarre and insulting to both sexes. If the play had been written by a man, even a supposed misogynist like Neil LaBute, I doubt if any producer would have touched it with a bargepole. And yet - it's very funny and includes some brilliant comic performances, although I thought Sophie Thompson was OTT as the daughter more insane than the intruder. Eileen Atkins is sensational, doing some of her best work during lond sequences when she is silent. If you think about this for too long I suspect it would collapse like a souffle but at the time it provides 100 minutes of non-stop entertainment. - David Baxter
03 Sep 08
Roll up! Roll up! Hear a Dame of the British Empire say "fuck" repeatedly (and it's not Judi Dench for once)! Appreciate how Colin Farrell could find 74-year old Eileen Atkins shaggable!! Laugh at the spoof of Germaine Greer !!!
Despite having portrayed the dourest and sourest spinsters in a stream of poke bonnet-dramas from Gosford Park to Cranford, Eileen Atkins emerges into the french windowed daylight as a slimline sassy and sexy septuagenarian with adroit comic timing in Joanna Murray-Smith's play about a sometime-academic sometime-televisual endlessly-published feminist held hostage in her own home by a psychotic fan. The hommage (or should that be femmage?) to Dr Greer is palpable but not unkindly so.
The great thing about this play is it makes you laugh, then it makes you think, then it makes you laugh about what you have been thinking. By holding the entire 20th century discourse on feminism up to the distorted mirror, it put air round every issue which has confronted men and women in their relationships - and exposes the contradictions in values and priorities which seem to have occurred about every twenty years through the century.
This is pictured through the tribulations of the second lead, Anna Maxwell Martin delivering a neurotic but deeply comic "devoted fan" who takes Atkins hostage in the early minutes of a tight 1 hour 40 plot. Maxwell Martin's character was abandoned by her mother for adoption in following the Atkins/Greer character's advice to "reject dependency" and died under a suburban train holding a copy of her seminal feminist book The Cerebral Vagina which is where the piece comes closest to reality in its parody of Greer's deservedly legendary The Female Eunuch. That it also comes glancingly close to Anna Karenina is just jam on it.
There are some stunning moments in these two performances, with control occasionally passing from one to the other in a way which is only achievable through impeccable acting and mutual respect of the actors. Just when you think it can't get any better, enter Sophie Thompson as Atkins' exhausted child-rearing daughter who is just possibly more keen than the hostage-taker to see her mother shot at point blank range.
People often say that plays "descend into farce" but it's at this point that The Female of the Species ascends into it, as both the comic potential and the central feminist debate become heightened by the arrival of the new character and her different and deviated perspective. Thomson's performance is every bit as taut as Maxwell Martin's and she has some of the best lines.
If anything, the play loses a little power in the final scenes where the plot is resolved, the gun is fired, and two male characters arrive - Thompson's doting but dull husband and an irrationally cast Con O'Neill (a man who I always think seems to have his arms on backwards, and who still seems to be doing Blood Brothers twenty years after he won the Olivier for it) as a taxi driver with a reactionary dialectical deconstruction of the feminist argument.
Whist willing to speak the profanities, Atkins apparently rejected a scene in which her character masturbates on the edge of a table to which she is handcuffed. We spent a happy half hour trying to decide which American actress should do it on Broadway if Atkins declines. My money's on Lily Tomlin. And she would. www.blowstar.blogspot.com - johnnyFox
06 Aug 08
saw this today and thought it was great, great performances especially sophie thompson. agree with other people on here, forget the feminism and just watch the play for it being fun and nice to see eileen atkins in a comedy - Caroline
26 Jul 08
I thought it was brilliant, all the cast were excellent, really funny. - Liz
24 Jul 08
In all the fuss about what Germaine Greer thinks about a play that may be based on an event in her life that she has neither seen nor read, we seem to be forgettiong that this is A NEW PLAY IN THE WEST END, a rare and endangered species which should be welcomed. It's not a great play - a bit contrived, rather implausible, maybe even preposterous - but it has a lot of very funny lines and the cast is simply terrific (and this is no star vehicle for one of our dames). It does make some interesting points about feminism, its consequences and its legacy, but if you go for a bit of fun rather than a profound debate, you'll probably enjoy yourself. - Gareth James
23 Jul 08
Very funny and well worth seeing- the critics have rated play as average or just above average because they say it doesn’t sufficiently explore the feminist/post-feminist issue in depth- but they are missing the point- yes the play may give you some food for future discussion/thought but you will be too busy laughing while watching the play to worry too much about that. Note to professional critics- get a sense of humour. I agree with the other reviewers Sophie Thompson was terrific. - Robert
18 Jul 08
Germaine was right, the patchy bad writing is largely drivel, with a few good but clichéd jokes. There are superb performances all round and Sophie Thompson steals the show from the two rather grand leads. - joesmith
18 Jul 08
Very funny play, I laughed the whole way through. Sophie Thompson stands out - just hysterical. - Michelle
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