The Female of the Species (play)

The Female of the Species (play)

Infobox Play
name = The Female of the Species

image_size =
caption =
writer = Joanna Murray-Smith
characters = Margot Mason
Molly Rivers
Tess Thornton
Bryan Thornton
Theo Reynolds
setting = The Present
premiere = 30 August 2006
place = Melbourne, Australia
orig_lang = English
subject =
genre = Comedy
web =
playbill =
ibdb_id =

"The Female of the Species" is a comic play by Joanna Murray-Smith first performed in 2006. The play is a satire about celebrity feminists, with a plot loosely inspired by a real-life incident in 2000, when author Germaine Greer was held at gunpoint in her own home by a distrubed student.Lettes, Quentin. [ "Well--Even-viragos-vulnerable.html",] "Daily Mail", July 17, 2008]

The play premiered in Australia, where it had seveal productions in 2006 and 2008. A production opened on the West End in 2008.


"The Female of the Species" premiered in Australia, produced by the Melbourne Theatre Company in 2006. [Croggon, Alison. [,25197,23176762-16947,00.html "More bubble bath than kitchen sink",] "The Australian News", February 8, 2008] It has also been produced by the Queensland Theatre Company at the Cremorne Theatre, South Brisbane, from February through March 2008. [ [ Queesland Theatre Company listing] ] It was then produced by the Black Swan Theatre Company at the Playhouse Theatre in Perth from June through July 2008, and toured in Western Australia through August 2008. [ [ Black Swan listing] ] The production was directed by Patrick Nolan with music by composer David Chesworth. [ [ Review at "Theatre Notes",] September 1, 2006]

The play had its West End premiere in previews at the Vaudeville Theatre on 10 July 2008, with the official opening 16 July 2008 and is booking through 4 October 2008. The production is directed by Roger Michell, and the cast includes Dame Eileen Atkins, Anna Maxwell Martin, Sophie Thompson, Paul Chahidi, Con O'Neill and Sam Kelly.

A Broadway production, originally scheduled for 2008 with Annette Benning, has been postponed. [Gans, Andrew. [ "Broadway Engagement of Female of the Species Postponed",] January 31, 2008]


Margot Mason is a feminist writer suffering from writer's block; she can not meet the deadlines for her next book. Molly Rivers, a deranged former student of Margot's, arrives unexpectedly at her country home with a gun and handcuffs Mason to her desk. Molly blames Margot for warping her mother's mind with her hit book "The Cerebral Vagina". Following Margot's advice, Molly's mother gave Molly away as a baby so that she wouldn't be enslaved by motherhood and then killed hersef. Molly has had herself sterilised to preserve her creativity, only to be told by Margot that she has no talent.

Margot's daughter Tess arrives, exhausted from her house full of children. Margot has accused Tess of throwing her life away to embrace the role of housewife. Tess agrees that her mother should be shot. Tess's sensitive stockbroker husband, Bryan also arrives to debate the virtues of Margot's best-sellers, her inconsistent philosophy, and her inablity to "mother". Even a macho taxi driver (Frank) and her flamboyantly gay publisher (Theo) comment on Margot's feminist failings.

Characters and London cast

*Margot Mason - Eileen Atkins
*Molly Rivers - Anna Maxwell Martin
*Tess Thornton - Sophie Thompson
*Bryan Thornton - Paul Chahidi
*Frank - Con O'Neill
*Theo Reynolds - Sam Kelly

Critical reception

Reviews of the West End production have been mostly positive. "The Independent" wrote that "the emphasis is on the jokes, of which there are many.... All the actors in Michell's production are excellent.... The show is stolen by Sophie Thompson, as the daughter whose only means of opposing Margot is to be the perfect mother and housewife... the unconvincing ending is neat without being tidy...." [Koenig, Rhoda. [ "The Female of the species, Vaudeville Theatre, London",] "The Independent", July 18, 2008] "This Is London" gave unqualified praise: "...the splendid Dame Eileen mounts another witty display of brisk imperiousness and self-admiring froideur, effortlessly swatting away complaints as if they were mere gnats. It makes for an evening of wicked, educated and reactionary amusement." [deJongh, Nicholas. [ "Female of species has mind of its own",] "Evening Standard", July 17, 2008] Quentin Letts wrote in "The Daily Mail", "This is an adult comedy, full of strong language and political jokes, but with that bold-type proviso I have no hesitation in saying it is the sparkiest, freshest thing on the West End stage this summer."

On the other hand, "The Sunday Times" commented that the play was only "fitfully amusing". [Hart, Christopher. [ "The Female of the Species",] "The Sunday Times", July 20, 2008] Likewise, "Variety" complained, "laugh-strewn though many of [the speeches] are, they don't build tension because the plot lacks consistency... this plot has more holes than a tennis net. Murray-Smith seems to put ideas and gags way ahead of consistent characterization and motive." [Benedict, David. [ "The Female of the Species",] "Variety", July 18, 2008]


External links

* [ Official Site]
* [ Vaudeville Theatre]
* [ Times on Line article about Atkins, July 5, 2008]
* [ London Theatre Breaks review,] July 17, 2008

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