Unsurprisingly, though she provided the inspiration for The Female of the Species, outspoken feminist icon Germaine Greer – who attracted headlines earlier this week by dismissing playwright and fellow Australian Joanna Murray-Smith as an “insane reactionary” (See News, 14 Jul 2008) - was nowhere to be seen at the play’s opening last night (16 July 2008, previews from 10 July) at the West End’s Vaudeville Theatre, where it’s booking for a limited season until 4 October (See News, 9 May 2008).

However, there were plenty of other famous faces, not least Hollywood’s Keanu Reeves who discreetly slipped in late and sneaked out a side door to avoid photographers on the red carpet.

In The Female of the Species, Eileen Atkins plays Margot Mason, a pioneer of 1970s feminism and author of The Cerebral Vagina and other bestsellers. When committed fan Molly, played by Anna Maxwell Martin, arrives unannounced, she seems to offer a solution to Margot’s current writer’s block – but then she produces a gun.

Atkins and Maxwell Martin both appeared in the UK premiere of Murray-Smith’s Honour, which was directed by Species director Roger Michell at the National Theatre in 2003. That production also starred Corin Redgrave, who was on hand last night for an honourable reunion.

TO SCROLL THROUGH ALL OF THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES' 1st NIGHT PHOTOS,
JUST CLICK ON THE "NEXT >" LINKS BELOW THE FOLLOWING FRAME.

For 1st Night Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller was on hand for arrivals and the curtain call at the Vaudeville Theatre and at the post-show party at Inn the Park along with the author, director and the rest of the stellar cast: Sophie Thompson, Paul Chahidi, Con O'Neill and Sam Kelly. Other first night guests included Richard Eyre, Ian McKellen, JJ Field, Nick Moran, Emilia Fox, Neil and Glenys Kinnock, Helen Lederer, Stephen McGann, Kika Markham and Phyllida Law.

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 Germaine Greer, whose ground-breaking 1970 tract The Female Eunuch brought international fame, was held captive in her Essex country house by a Bath University student. The UK premiere is designed by Mark Thompson, with lighting by James Whiteside and sound by Matt McKenzie. It’s produced in the West End by David Richenthal and Mary Beth O’Connor, Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer for Nimax Theatres.

-by Terri Paddock