The Six Wives of Timothy Leary
Surprising glimpses into a controversial life
This article is from 2008.
It’s a tragedy of our age that the 60s, a period of unparalleled liberation and social progress for ordinary people, is portrayed today as a kind of absurd self-indulgence from which we were all lucky to recover. This piece goes a little way to rectifying this error by exploring one of the period’s most memorable figures.
Timothy Leary’s life is retold here through the words of the six life partners who followed him through his controversial adventures. From his strait-laced first wife, who is riddled with suburban anxiety, through a series of models, revolutionaries, hippies and intellectuals, the six women give accounts of this no doubt at times infuriating man.
Timothy Hughes’ minimalist production of Philip de Gouvia’s piece takes the form of a straightforward series of monologues told in flashback, the sequences broken up by brief glimpses of Leary’s funeral, which the women are all attending. We catch surprising glimpses of Leary’s early, relatively conservative years as an academic, before moving on to his experiments with psychedelic drugs and years of political activism and imprisonment. At times you wish that the more tabloid-friendly moments of his life were given less emphasis than his serious contribution to psychology in the 50s, as well as his politics thereafter, but this amounts to an entertaining evening of theatre, with some well delivered performances, most notably some deft, nuanced playing from Hetty Abbot and Lisa Came as Leary’s first two wives.
Pleasance Dome, 556 6550, until 25 Aug (not 19), 5pm, £8–£9 (£6.50–£7.50).