The Female of the Species (play)

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For other uses, see The Female of the Species.
The Female of the Species
Written by Joanna Murray-Smith
Characters Margot Mason
Molly Rivers
Tess Thornton
Bryan Thornton
Theo Reynolds
Date premiered 30 August 2006
Place premiered Melbourne, Australia
Original language English
Genre Comedy
Setting The Present
Official site

The Female of the Species is a comic play by Joanna Murray-Smith first performed in 2006. The play is a satire about celebrity feminists, with a plot loosely inspired by a real-life incident in 2000, when author Germaine Greer was held at gunpoint in her own home by a disturbed student.[1]

The play was premiered in Australia, where it had several productions in 2006 and 2008. A London production opened in the West End in 2008.


The Female of the Species was premiered in Australia, produced by the Melbourne Theatre Company in 2006.[2] It was also produced by the Queensland Theatre Company at the Cremorne Theatre in South Brisbane in February and March 2008.[3] It was then produced by the Black Swan Theatre Company at the Playhouse Theatre in Perth in June and July 2008, and toured in Western Australia in August 2008.[4] The production was directed by Patrick Nolan with music by the composer David Chesworth.[5]

The play had its London West End premiere in previews at the Vaudeville Theatre on 10 July 2008, with the official opening on 16 July 2008. It ran until 4 October 2008.[6] The production was directed by Roger Michell and the cast included Dame Eileen Atkins, Anna Maxwell Martin, Sophie Thompson, Paul Chahidi, Con O'Neill and Sam Kelly.

A Broadway production, originally scheduled for 2008 with Annette Bening, was postponed[7] until the showings scheduled for 24–29 June 2013 at the Lace Market Theatre[8]


Margot Mason is a feminist writer suffering from writer's block; she can not meet the deadlines for her next book. Molly Rivers, a deranged former student of Margot's, arrives unexpectedly at her country home with a gun and handcuffs Mason to her desk. Molly blames Margot for warping her mother's mind with her hit book The Cerebral Vagina. Following Margot's advice, Molly's mother gave Molly away as a baby so that she wouldn't be enslaved by motherhood and then killed herself. Molly has had herself sterilized to preserve her creativity, only to be told by Margot that she has no talent.

Margot's daughter Tess arrives, exhausted from her house full of children. Margot has accused Tess of throwing her life away to embrace the role of housewife. Tess agrees that her mother should be shot. Tess's sensitive stockbroker husband, Bryan also arrives to debate the virtues of Margot's best-sellers, her inconsistent philosophy, and her inability to "mother". Even a macho taxi driver (Frank) and her flamboyantly gay publisher (Theo) comment on Margot's feminist failings.[9]

Characters and London cast[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Reviews of the West End production were mostly positive. The Independent wrote that "the emphasis is on the jokes, of which there are many.... All the actors in Michell's production are excellent.... The show is stolen by Sophie Thompson, as the daughter whose only means of opposing Margot is to be the perfect mother and housewife... the unconvincing ending is neat without being tidy...."[10] This Is London gave unqualified praise: "...the splendid Dame Eileen mounts another witty display of brisk imperiousness and self-admiring froideur, effortlessly swatting away complaints as if they were mere gnats. It makes for an evening of wicked, educated and reactionary amusement."[11] Quentin Letts wrote in The Daily Mail, "This is an adult comedy, full of strong language and political jokes, but with that bold-type proviso I have no hesitation in saying it is the sparkiest, freshest thing on the West End stage this summer."[1]

On the other hand, The Sunday Times commented that the play was only "fitfully amusing".[12] Likewise, Variety complained, "laugh-strewn though many of [the speeches] are, they don't build tension because the plot lacks consistency... this plot has more holes than a tennis net. Murray-Smith seems to put ideas and gags way ahead of consistent characterization and motive."[13]


  1. ^ a b Lettes, Quentin."Well--Even-viragos-vulnerable.html", Daily Mail, 17 July 2008
  2. ^ Croggon, Alison."More bubble bath than kitchen sink", The Australian News, 8 February 2008
  3. ^ Queensland Theatre Company listing
  4. ^ Black Swan listing
  5. ^ Review at Theatre Notes, 1 September 2006
  6. ^ Vaudeville Theatre website production history
  7. ^ Gans, Andrew."Broadway Engagement of Female of the Species Postponed", 31 January 2008
  8. ^ Lace Market Theatre Listings
  9. ^ Joanna Murray-Smith, The Female of the Species, Nick Hern Books, London, 2008. ISBN 978-1-85459-522-5
  10. ^ Koenig, Rhoda."The Female of the species, Vaudeville Theatre, London", The Independent, 18 July 2008
  11. ^ deJongh, Nicholas."Female of species has mind of its own", Evening Standard, 17 July 2008
  12. ^ Hart, Christopher. "The Female of the Species", The Sunday Times, 20 July 2008
  13. ^ Benedict, David. "The Female of the Species", Variety, 18 July 2008

External links[edit]