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Who was Mary Pix, the woman behind the RSC's new show?

As the RSC stage The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich we explore who the show's original author was

Sophie Stanton (Mrs Rich)
© Helen Maybanks, RSC

The RSC's upcoming new romp The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich was written by a contemporary of Aphra Behn, but who is much less well known. Mary Pix's play The Beau Defeated – renamed for the RSC's version – follows Mrs Rich, a wealthy widow, who will do anything to gain a title. Many plays written at the time by women were written anonymously, or under pseudonyms, which means many have been mistakenly attributed to male authors of the time. Pix is something of an exception. Here's a little more about her.

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Where was she born?

Mary Pix was born in Buckingham in 1666, the year of the Great Fire of London.

Was she from a wealthy family?

She was the daughter of a rector, musician and headmaster of the Royal Latin School in Buckinghamshire.

When did she start to write?

Pix emerged as a professional writer in 1696 at the age of 30. She went on to write one novel and seven plays, with a further four anonymous plays attributed to her.

What were the name of some of her plays?

Her first two plays were called Ibrahim, The Thirteenth Emperour of the Turks and The Spanish Wives.

Was she a writer all her life?

Mary Pix only wrote for eleven years of her life.

Was she ever married?

According to church records, she married George Pix at the age of 18 (her maiden name was Griffith). But was apparently courted by Thomas Dalby, her father's successor, and the rumour is that Mary and Dalby had been making love rather energetically and overturned a candle which set fire to the schoolhouse where she lived!

What marks her plays out?

Most of her plays have strong leading female roles, which she wrote for two of the most influential actresses of the Restoration period Elizabeth Barry and Anne Bracegirdle.

Was she well regarded at the time?

Mary's male contemporary was William Congreve, The Beau Defeated (the original title of The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich) was performed by the same company as Congreve's The Way of the World – which was less successfully received at the time.

Were there any other female playwrights around at the time?

Mary was one of three leading female playwrights of the period who all started working at the same time, they were Delariviere Manley and Catherine Trotter.

Were they buddies?

With Delariviere and Catherine, Mary was scathingly satrisied in an anonymously written play called The Female Wits (1696). Mary was depicted as "Mrs. Wellfed" the "fat, well matured" butt of misogynist humour.

The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich runs at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon from 3 April until 14 June, with previews from now.

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