Sylvia Plath - Three Women, The First Revival (3 stars)

This article is from 2009.

Sylvia Plath - Three Women, The First Revival

Rare production of the poet’s play, with fine performances

There’s more than a touch of the poet and playwright herself in each of the three titular characters in Robert Shaw’s production of what was originally a radio play from 1962. The triumvirate of voices are those of a wife (Louisa Clein), a secretary (Neve McIntosh) and a student (Lara Lemon), interchanging and overlapping as they recount experiences with their bodies, fertility and society at large.

What is striking about the production, most of all, is the strength of the performances, with each actress steadily increasing the intensity of the experiences they convey. The sense of an overwhelming rage, probably unexpressed to the world, and more articulate for being trapped in subjectivity is conveyed with guileful nuance, bringing Plath’s seething resentment of the trammelling patriarchy she faced to the surface with great lucidity. McIntosh, in particular, brings an awesome emotional energy to her reified office worker.

That said, as a theatrical experience, the piece still feels a bit like a radio play, a problem not at all helped by its Assembly Supper Room venue, an end stage with dodgy sightlines where a greater power might be found on the close proximity of an in-the-round presentation.

Assembly Rooms, 623 3030, until 31 Aug (not 20), 11am, £11–£12 (£10–£11).

Sylvia Plath - Three Women, The First Revival

  • 3 stars

**** (Times). Benedict Nightingale; 'resonates soul-deep, regardless of one's experiences or one's sex' (Financial Times); 'Director Robert Shaw can claim to have a coup on his hands... lucid, uncluttered staging... exquisite' (Telegraph).

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