Female of the Species’

‘The Female of the Species’ is a satirical, feminist comedy by creative Melbourne playwright, Joanna Murray-Smith. The plot was inspired by an actual occurrence that took place in April 2000, when a mentally troubled student held Germaine Greer captive in her home.

This mischievous play premiered in Australia in 2006, but the last Perth production was in July 2008, by the Black Swan Theatre Company at the Playhouse Theatre.

This wonderful, ‘updated’, adult production by the Harbour Theatre Group can be seen in the attractive, art deco Camelot Theatre within the Mosman Park Memorial Hall, 16 Lochee Street, Mosman Park.

Performances are most nights until the Saturday 14th March. Curtain up at the slightly earlier time of 7.30 pm, with Sunday matinees on the 8th and 15th at 2.00 pm.

The play takes place in Margot’s house, out in the wilds of the countryside.

The set is Margot’s study, with antique desk and chaise longue. The walls have some paintings from her collection by famous artists. There is a French window leading out to the garden. Another quality set from the team of Brian Mahoney, Peter Kirkwood and Tina Barker.

Sarah Christiner, who also stage-manages the show, devised the soundscape. The lighting was designed by Rob Tagliaferri and operated by Alan Morris.

        For thirty years, Margot (Rosalba Jefferys) has been churning out her best-selling, feministic literature that has set principles for the modern woman, but now she is starting to have writer’s block. Her publisher, Theo (Ted Bull), phones constantly asking for her next novel, but Margot has only reached the second page of her writing.

       As the author sits at her laptop staring blankly, a bolshie young student, Molly (Molly Kerr) opens the French windows and starts wandering around the study. When, eventually, Margot notices her, an argument starts about the qualities of her previous publications. As things are getting heated, Margot’s daughter Tess (Emily Lloyd) arrives. She has just had a terrible ride from the station with a weird taxi driver, Frank (Andrew O’Connell).

      As the afternoon progresses, and the tension rises, Tess’s painfully dim, stockbroker husband, Bryan (Patrick Whitelaw) arrives and the whole situation becomes more chaotic.

      With Margot’s publication glitches, Molly’s anger and Tess’s martial problems, will normality ever return?

 The director, Trevor Dhu has several most successful, plays and musicals under his directing wing. His acting and direction is well admired and Trevor is respected for trying novel ideas and new approaches to well-known plays. This play relies upon a subtle, understated approach to work well, and the cast has captured this genre beautifully. In fact, every single member of the cast was outstanding. The rapport was amazing and the use of body language quite hilarious, superb teamwork – best I have seen for a while.

Molly Kerr, who has given us some slide splitting comedy in the past, has just returned to Australia after a few months working in Vancouver. At first glances, the two leads seem poles apart, but as the script develops, their characters meld.

The second Act is hysterical, and the updated version is fresh and filled with Aussie humour. A really fun night at the theatre. Highly recommended.