Christine Bruckner's book, subtitled Eleven Uncensored Speeches From Eleven Incensed Women, gives voice to a series of peripheral characters from history. The three speeches Eleanor Bron has chosen to stage don't, in fact, include Mrs Othello; she goes instead for Mrs Martin Luther, a serenely sardonic Knoxian Scot complaining about the strictures of hubby's calling; Petrarch's Laura, immortalised in verse and now dying, angry and bitter, of the plague; and Christiane von Goethe, the great man's down-to-earth wife haranguing a snooty patrician townswoman (or rather, her closed door).
Both as actress and translator, Bron does full justice to Bruckner – not stagifying her writing, but adding just enough business to turn bare recitations into simply-clad monologues. The writings themselves, though, never fulfil the promise of the conception; it's as if this marvellous idea had been shown the light of day only to be given a quick walk round the block and hustled back indoors again. Bruckner sets out to redress a hideous gender imbalance, but ends up doing no more than embellishing the periphery of the already existing picture.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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