Purcell Room, London SE1
Opened 13 October, 1992

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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