Is there such a thing as feminist theatre?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to write an essay about it (though I might get my third years to do so next semester), but I’ve seen two very contrasting plays this week with lots of meat for a feminist critique.

Last night I saw The Female of the Species by Joanna Murray-Smith, starring Dame Eileen Atkins, Anna Maxwell Martin and Sophie Thompson. It’s loosely based on Germaine Greer being held hostage in her own home (and unsurprisingly Greer isn’t all that keen on a traumatic event being used as the starting point of a satire), so there are lots of gags about celebrity feminism, being a “thinker” and a “provocateur” rather than a “life coach”; covering the same old hackneyed ground (albeit in a comic, light-handed way) about women wanting real men, not feminised ones, and feminism being started by ugly women who couldn’t get husbands; and crashing towards the denouement with the declaration that “men aren’t the enemy – old feminists are!” It’s worth a look, just for the food for thought, but don’t expect anything groundbreaking.

On Tuesday, I saw Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s new play, Her Naked Skin , at the National. It was a hell of an evening – a lengthy play and emotionally draining, set as it is in 1913 amidst suffragette activity. I shan’t give away any plot spoilers, but this is the era of the cat and mouse act, and I spent much of the second act feeling entirely emotionally drained and wondering if I’d ever have been brave enough to do what those women did had I been in the same situation.

If you’ve seen either of the plays, I’d be interested to know what you think of them (but please mark your comments with spoiler warnings if necessary!).