As previously tipped (See The Goss, 7 May 2008), Eileen Aktins (pictured) will play a Germaine Greer-like feminist held captive by a fan in the UK premiere of Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith’s The Female of the Species, which, according to the Daily Mail, is now scheduled to open at the West End’s Vaudeville Theatre on 16 July 2008 (previews from 10 July).

Atkins won a Best Actress Olivier for the UK premiere of Murray-Smith’s Honour at the National in 2003 and is currently riding high having scooped a Best Actress BAFTA for her TV turn, opposite Judi Dench, in the BBC’s Cranford. She’s just finished a West End run in Jonathan Kent’s revival of Edward Bond’s The Sea (pictured) at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

The Female of the Species will reunite Atkins not just with Murray-Smith but also with Roger Michell and Anna Maxwell-Martin, who, respectively, directed and co-starred with her in Honour. Michell’s other credits include last year’s Landcape with Weapon, for which he was Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated, on stage, and the films Venus, Enduring Love and Notting Hill, while Maxwell-Martin has recently been seen in Cabaret on stage and TV’s Bleak House and Poppy Shakespeare.

In the The Female of the Species, Margot Mason (Atkins), a pioneer of 1970s feminism and author of The Cerebral Vagina and other best-sellers, now has writer's block. When committed fan Molly (Maxwell-Martin) arrives unannounced, she seems to offer a solution – but then she produces a gun and threatens to kill Molly for warping her mother's mind with her dogma.

The Female of the Species had its world premiere in 2006 in Melbourne, but Murray-Smith was inspired to write it following the real-life incident in this country in 2000 when fellow Australian German Greer, whose ground-breaking 1970 tract The Female Eunuch brought international fame, was held captive in her Essex country house.

Producer David Richenthal told the Daily Mail today that, for the UK premiere and subsequent planned Broadway transfer, the action has been relocated from Australia to the English countryside. The play was previously announced to open on Broadway later this year with Annette Bening, who pulled out of the project for “personal reasons” last September.

Currently at the Vaudeville Theatre, Greta Scacchi will open next week (13 May 2008, previews from 29 April) in Edward Hall’s revival of Terence Rattigan's modern classic about obsessive love, The Deep Blue Sea, which runs for a limited season (See News, 27 Mar 2008).

- by Terri Paddock