An impressively scaled production with strong ideas on women and marital infidelity in 1930s New York.
Photo Bob Seary
First up, it must be said that The Women is a big play. It has a running time of 2 hours and ten minutes, including interval. It has a cast of 18, all of whom make numerous costume changes and perfectly timed entries and exits in order to deliver their hilarious lines. The action takes place on a revolving set which required four people to construct (Tom Bannerman, Rodger Wishart, Christina Hatzis and Tim Cornish) under the guidance of set designer John Cervenka. And let us not forget the characters themselves: from obnoxiously loud socialites like Sylvia Fowler (Jess Loudon) to the brash, love-addicted Countess De Lage (Joy Miller) and the everyday 'New- Yoickers’ working in Sachs and beauty salons, this is a play full of women who, despite the constraints of their times, are strong and bold. Productions at the New Theatre have never shied away from using the space available to them, and this is certainly no exception.
The Women opens with the heavily pregnant Edith Potter (Emma Louise), Sylvia, Nancy Blake (Alexandra Plim) and newly married Jane (Jordan Keyes-Liley) playing cards. We deduce they are in the house of Mrs Stephen Haines from conversation, in particular the gossiping of two-faced Sylvia. After a disagreement with the outspoken writer Nancy, Sylvia waits patiently until Jane and Nancy leave the room. She has some news for Edith: according to her manicurist, Stephen Haines is involved in an affair with a shop girl from Sachs. Declaring that she couldn't possibly hurt Mary Haines by telling her, Sylvia instead sets in place a chain of events that lead to Mary encountering the manicurist and ending her marriage. Along Mary's journey to Reno and back, she meets characters whose mannerisms speak as loudly as the stereotypes which inspire them, as The Women explores marital infidelity and womanhood in the Thirties.
Director Deborah Jones stepped into the fray after the sudden death of Frank McNamara in May and does a solid job here, particularly in casting - which must have been a time consuming and difficult project in itself. Stand out successes include Helen Stuart as the likeable Mary Haines, Jess Loudon's Sylvia and Annie Schofield's gossiping manicurist Olga. The characters travel between multiple locations, from New York to Reno and back again, via such institutions of the socialite life as Sachs Fifth Avenue.
Known as Clare Boothe Luce's most famous work, The Women is almost 80 years old, yet provides us with an illuminating look into the life of upper class American women that would hardly be out of place in an episode of cult TV show Mad Men. Complete with an impressive wardrobe comprised of more than 90 outfits (expertly coordinated by Alexandra Plim and constructed by David Marshall Martin and Elizabeth Ivory), The Women will appeal to a wide audience, from lovers of comedy and character studies to modern day fashionistas.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
By Clare Boothe Luce
Directed by Deborah Jones.
Set Designer John Cervanka
Sound Design Stuart Wright
Costume Coordinator Alexandra Plim
Lighting Coordinator Tyrone Santika
Production Manager Martin Kelly
Stage Manager Petra Vaculik
Lighting Operator Ole Borch
Sound Operator Jesse Ledesma
Sound Operator Sheridan Tampion
Production Photography Bob Seary
Cast: Heidi Baleisis, Melissa Burgess, Kailey Higgins, Jordan Keyes- Liley, Jess Loudon, Emma Louise, Joy Miller, Celia Kelly, Susan M. Kennedy, Nell Nakkan, Lauren Orrell, Alexandra Plim, Jade Potts, Eleanor Ryan, Annie Schofield, Helen Stuart, Vola Vandere, and Sandy Velini.
New Theatre, Newtown.
11 August - 12 September