When feminist writer Margot Mason published her seminal work, The Cerebral Vagina in the early 70s, she could not have imagined the ongoing ramifications of its doctrine nor envisioned that one day, years later, it would lead to her being held at gunpoint by a deranged student, Molly. That’s the core plot of Joanna Murray-Smith’s comic play, The Female Of The Species. It’s a fictional story but it was inspired by the true life incident in which Germaine Greer was once held hostage in her home by a teen female stalker. Greer’s experience was traumatic; Murray-Smith’s play is “definitely a farce – like, first and foremost, it’s funny,” according to Lib Campbell who plays Molly in an upcoming production.
The play is set in 2006 but Mason (played by Margaret Olive) is stuck in the 1970s, holding on to outdated notions and politics and the faded success of her book. The one-room set is Mason’s study, chaotic and cluttered and anachronistic.
“It becomes more of a circus – the actual space – the more you get into it through the show,” says Campbell. She describes the play as an irreverent, hilarious take on feminism, lampooning popular tropes and using stereotyped characters.
Campbell’s character, Molly, feels that her mother’s mind was corrupted by Mason’s book and that as a result, her own life was ruined; at the same time, she is a student of feminism with a high regard for Mason’s work.
“I was attracted to Molly because through the whole play she’s kind of at war with herself with [regard to] Margot – over whether she idolises her or hates her. And it’s this constant struggle with her the whole time,” explains Campbell.
While the play explores themes around self-awareness, obsession, feminism, it is ultimately a farce, according to Campbell.
“It’s not realistic at all. The whole thing is mad!”
Feb 8-23. The Performance Space, St Aidan’s, 1 Christina St, Longueville. $20-$33+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.lanecovetheatrecompany.com
By Rita Bratovich