Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Age of Arousal/Blithe Spirit

I went to two really marvellous plays last weekend. Linda Griffiths' Age of Arousal produced by the always innovative Nightwood Theatre, is very loosely based on George Gissing's novel The Odd Women, about the lives and struggles of women in Victorian London when there was a surplus of women in the population, and thus an excess of single or "odd" women. The novel and play are set amidst the ideas surrounding the early suffrage movement and feminist ideas about labour, marriage and sexuality. Griffiths' adapation is witty, sexy and gives really meaty, interesting dialogue to all of the five women characters. It's playing until Dec. 16th but if you can't catch it, Coach House has published a terrific edition (the play makes really wonderful reading) that includes Griffiths' extensive performance notes (she even includes a letter to Gissing taking him to task for his misogyny but acknowledging that he did live in different times - she can write more frankly about sex for example). Following the play is a series of short essays, her "reaction to research, time travel and the history of the suffragettes", which provides a lot of great information for those who are unfamiliar with this very important and fascinating era of women's history. Feminists and typewriters - how can you go wrong?
I also relished Soulpepper's production of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. Terrific set and costumes, and some fine bits of acting, particularly by Brenda Robbins as Elvira. Coward is to my mind the most brilliant playwright of the twentieth century and his continual influence is often underrated. You can eavesdrop on the delicious gossip of the twentieth century by dipping into the newly published Letters of Noel Coward edited by Barry Day. Or treat yourself to hours of entertainment with the recently released Noel Coward Collection, a set of seven DVDs of productions, not only of his plays but also filmed short stories.

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