Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cream of the Fringe

Not enough blogging because of too much life, including a vastly entertaining trip to the US Open earlier this week.

But life also involved checking out the Fringe Festival, with a review making it to the pages of Time Out New York this week. As I point out in it, Peter Barr Nickowitz’s The Alice Complex is the second play to be inspired by something that actually happened to Germaine Greer in 2000 (she was held hostage in her own house by a deranged female student). This summer, Joanna Murray-Smith’s take on the episode, The Female of the Species, played in the West End to mixed reviews, with Eileen Atkins in the role of the older woman.

From penning The Female Eunuch (retitled The Cerebral Vagina by Murray-Smith, The Alice Complex by Nickowitz) in 1970 to being a contestant on the 2005 edition of Celebrity Big Brother alongside the likes of Jackie Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen and the Happy Mondays' dancer/mascot Bez (she lasted five days), it's hard to find a better subject for a drama than Germaine Greer. Seriously: forget about the hostage business—her entire life could, should be a movie.

Weirdly enough, The Female of the Species was scheduled to open on Broadway early this year, starring Annette Bening in the Germaine Greer part, but Bening ended up withdrawing and the show never made it to New York. The Fringe play, though rather more modest than what you'd see on Broadway, did boast two excellent actors: Lisa Banes, displaying a sharp elegance that reminded me of Fiona Shaw at times (though like Shaw, Banes had a tendency to ACT) and Xanthe Elbrick, who had already impressed me in Coram Boy; why we don't see her more onstage in NYC is puzzling.

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