Opening at the Parade Theatre at National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) tonight, the student production of The Country Wife, directed by Belvoir Artistic Associate Tom Wright, celebrates female liberation, taking a closer look at the role of women both in and out of theatre at a revolutionary point in theatre history.
“At heart, The Country Wife is about what happens to men when they think that women are their property,” said Wright. “And it’s about the ways in which women have to transmute, hide and redress themselves in order to survive. Although it’s written by a male playwright, it places the female experience at the centre.”
Written in the Restoration era of the early 1600s, when women were first allowed to act professionally on stage, the play didn’t just overstep boundaries, it smashed them wide open, which would have been uncomfortable for the patriarchal traditionalists of the time.
“The play itself is really refreshing. It’s got lots of vitality and so much humour and innuendo that there’s lots to play with,” commented NIDA Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) year two student Emma Kew, who plays the central character, Margery Pinchwife. “Tom Wright is fantastic at finding and showing the nuances within that.”
Kew’s Margery discovers there’s more to life in a town that allows her to break free of suppression and pursue her desires. “She’s intent on exploring every crevice of this new feeling,” added Kew. “She’s a really liberating character and a real symbol for the rest of the play and for the time itself.”
The Country Wife’s female characters are strong, with the production carrying feminist undertones of sexual liberation.
“It’s a provocative play,” added Joshua Crane, BFA (Acting) year two, who plays Margery’s oppressive husband, Jack Pinchwife. “The women win this play, which is really unusual for anything during that period and prior to that,” said Crane. “You see that Margery had been set up to be this dumb innocent character, but really she’s the cleverest one in the room.”
The stunning period dress, designed and made by NIDA’s MFA (Design for Performance) and BFA (Costume) students, respectively, immerses the audience in the era, enabling them to feel truly a part of the revolution and to experience the change as well as the outlandish behaviour of the women.
“This was the first time britches were worn by women – so seeing women’s legs for the first time would have been crazy. And seeing a woman dressed as a man kissing another man would have been so deeply erotic for these audiences,” said Kew.
The Country Wife is playing as part of the The Paradice Family Foundation Season Student Productions October 2017.
THE COUNTRY WIFE