The Female Of The Species Review

Posted on: 30 July 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

We review the Germaine Greer inspired comedy starring Eileen Atkins.

Real life incidents usually provide the inspiration for fascinating drama but this is not the case with Joanna Murray-Smith’s overwrought farcical comedy The Female of the Species, on at the Vaudeville Theatre, directed by Roger Michell.

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Margot Mason is a feminist literary giant suffering an extreme case of writer’s block as deadline after deadline after deadline comes and goes on her next book.

When a young fan arrives unexpectedly at her country home and brandishes a gun, blaming her for the suicide of her mother, Margot’s world slowly begins to spin out of control.

Things are further complicated when her neurotic daughter, wimpish son-in-law, worried publisher and a crazed taxi driver show up and debate the virtues of her bestsellers, her inconsistent world view and her decidedly un-motherly touch.

This play is based on an actual incident which occurred at the home of feminist writer and lecturer Germaine Greer.

Yet rather than provide fresh insight into the nature of feminism, the play tells us very little we did not know already, while the comedy is grossly exaggerated to the point where it threatens the reality of the piece. Though to be fair it is intermittently amusing, the funniest moment being when a handcuffed Margot attempts a variety of body contortions to take a few sips of whisky from a near empty bottle.

What saves this disappointing work is a dignified performance by that grande dame de théâtre, Eileen Atkins, making a welcome return to the West End stage and giving the unsympathetic role of Margot Mason a firm sense of conviction.

But with the dialogue peppered with the expletives and constant reference to body parts, I can’t help feeling this is a play which will most appeal to people who break into hysterics at jokes about vaginas!

Laurence Green

The Female Of The Species - Sophie Thompson - photo: Manuel HarlanAs you'd expect, Eileen Atkins is convincing as the Germaine Greer inspired feminist thinker. Sophie Thompson stands out as her fraught daughter Tess, married to boring Bryan played by Paul Chahidi.

Smock-wearing, gun-toting 'fan' Molly is played rustically by Anna Maxwell Martin. Con O'Neill and Sam Kelly don't have so much to do, but complete the dozen good performances.

The superb cast make the most of the at times patchy material, and their great comic timing plays up the farce element. Genuinely funny lines come from the characters and situation, though when trying to make points about feminism, the script is less effective.

Cherry Butler

Plays until 4th October 2008.

Booking Information

Box office: 0870 040 0084 or:

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