New play by Arts Theatre Cronulla grapples with ideology

The Female of the Species by Joanna Murray-Smith

Directed by Susan Turner

Arts Theatre Cronulla

What is it that women want? Do they know? Do men? Does feminism know what they need? Can men know how to be men when giving women what they think they want doesn't please either sex?

These are just some of the questions posed by Joanna Murray-Smith in her satire on Feminism and its consequences for women, men and society as they take on board the rhetoric. While feminism and the changing role of the sexes are targets, they are not alone.

This production asks what is it that will us happy? Can happiness be found in another person: Spouse? Parent? Mentor? She also addresses the responsibility of the writer for what she writes and holding up to her how her rhetoric can affect lives.

This play is packed with ideas and acute observations delivered in a fast paced, larger than life style. Lots of laughs with barely a moment to let each sling land, the momentum of the humour rolls.

The story centres on Margot Mason (Lynda Leavers) a second wave feminist who has celebrity, success and wealth, but is emotionally incapacitated. Having built her career on acute perception of the changing status of women in society, she has maintained such a sway over women that her writing shapes society while it comments on it. Brilliant as an academic but hopeless as a mother, she has lessons of her own to learn.

Molly (Meili Bookluck) a former acolyte of Margot's, intrudes on her writing retreat wielding a handgun. She wants to avenge her own and her mother's duplicity in taking Margot's rhetoric literally. Margot here devolves into a symbol of the feminist movement.

By living the more radicalised form of the message, Molly has lost the chance of living in a family - with her mother or with any children. On the other extreme is Margot's daughter, Tess (Emily Perry). Instead of being the model example of an angsty feminist bra-burner, Margot's daughter is a harried, stay-home mother of three. Her exhaustion glosses over her lack of personal fulfilment, her frustration with her politically-correct/emasculated husband, Bryan (Haki Pepo Olu Crisden), and grief over not knowing who her father is.

The would-be siege unfolding is intruded upon by the blustering testosterone-driven taxi - driver, Frank (Kevin Brest) who has his own bone to pick with feminism, ergo Margot.

Frank and Bryan are caricatures of types - Bryan the metrosexual and Frank the born-again macho male. Theo (Graham Yates), Margot's camp agent represents the commercial pressure on Margot to keep publishing something, anything for he needs her books to sell.

Director, Susan Turner urges her audiences to, "Strap yourselves in and enjoy this thought-provoking and ultimately hilarious look at how the ideology of others can gravely effect ourselves and those around us." And she delivers. Together with Neil Moulang, their set is gorgeous and well complemented by the aptly appointed costumes (Meili Bookluck).

Lynda Leaver is well cast as Margot. She brings to the character expansive sophistication and narcissism that sets the energy level for the production on high gear.

Strong performances from all of the cast carry off a fun-filled night.

The season runs until September 7.