Lane Cove Theatre Company are running a fun show at the moment. THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES is by Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith and was a bit of a cause celebre when first produced in 2006 and it still manages to raise a few eyebrows with its blend of farce and feminism… and some every odd mansplaining. And an hilarious first line.
Fictionarily referencing an incident when Germaine Greer was held at gun point by a student who claimed her life had been ruined by feminism, we first meet celebrity feminist author Margot Mason. Margot is lying to her publisher, Theo, on the phone because she does not actually have any of her new book written. There’s some serious writer’s block happening. Molly arrives unknown and announced with a killer title for Margot’s new book. Not long after, her daughter, Tess, will unceremoniously hurl herself through the French doors. Following will be Tess’s husband, Bryan, and the taxi driver, Frank, who delivers the married couple at separate times.
Margaret Olive as Margot opens the show with a crucifying diatribe about the state of book publishing. In fact, there are several monologues in play which serve various purposes or causes, and can sometimes slow the action down, but not this one. Olive strides around the stage with malicious and aggressive bravado in the face of her limited recent output. While Olive can be a little too strident at times, it is a huge role with very limited variety as written and Olive brings a clear character to stage. Her struggle with compassion, maternal feeling etc is very well expressed and her wordplay when thinking about titles and theses is placed with considerable comic timing.
As Molly, Lib Campbell is also very comically adept. Her first scene with Olive is rapid fire satiric dialogue and it is flawlessly presented. Campbell brings enthusiasm and purpose and excessive perk to a rich, funny character. Extremely funny too is Zoe Crawford as Tess. Fully on board with the prospect of symbolic matricide, Crawford is high strung and needy and her use of declamatory physicality is great fun … you can really see the future soccer mom! Her frazzle and outrage at the accidental truths is especially well played, plus her sympathetic indulgence of Molly’s issues is very enjoyable to watch. That relationship is just lovely.
Also bringing added humour are the three men of the piece. Jock Lehman has perplexion down pat and has an absolute charm in his clueless reconstruction speech. Taufeeq Ahmed Sheikh is a completely un-reconstructed Frank who is passionate and ignored and ready to snap. John Grinston’s Theo is warm and queeny and has a nice relationship with Margot.
The direction from Jess Davis keeps the action happening with very well-orchestrated movements around the set, she uses centre and down stage especially well. In addition, Davis has a strong command of the non-speaking action and business; and her handling of the changing allegiances is expressed with excellent, character based motivations and growth.
So don’t be late to the show or you will miss that cracker first line. It’s a show well worth seeing, “deliberately facetious”, with lots of biting wit well delivered.