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The Female of the Species - Melville Theatre

Reviewed by Kate O'Sullivan


"The Female of the Species," currently being performed at Melville Theatre, is a thought-provoking comic play by Joanna Murray-Smith. and a rollercoaster of satire that takes a witty jab at celebrity feminists. The play is inspired by a true story from 2000, where Germaine Greer found herself at the mercy of a disturbed student, and delivers a fresh perspective on the complexities of fame and feminism. A good show for the Melville stage, Lars Jensen has taken this show and run with the themes and energy of the script to deliver a solidly fun night out.

The play centres on the performances of three female performers: Rosalba Jeffreys as the feminist writer Margot Mason, Madeline Page as the university student Molly Rivers, and Nikki Di Camillo as Margot's daughter Tess Thornton. These 3 actors do a wonderful job of the nuanced relationships between the characters, staying realistic and grounded even amongst the absurdity. They also clearly know who their characters are, and give us little nuggets even in This is particularly notable given, as noted in the programme, Jeffrey's stepped up with 4 weeks to go and you do not notice in her performance.

The other characters in the story do well in support, with particular note to Tom Rees' eleventh-hour entrance as Theo Hanover bringing a definite levity to the ending. There are a couple of moments where Tarak Jabado (as Bryan Thornton) and Jake Lippo (as Frank the taxi driver) do stray a little into the obvious choices and get a little hand-wavy, meaning they feel less nuanced than the female performers, but it doesn't take away from the hilarity of the script in any meaningful way.

The box set is beautiful, with details everywhere you could want them, with full bookcases and all the appropriate nicknacks that make a house feel lived in and real. The location of the desk does limit the inclusion of some characters at points, being so far upstage and with Jeffrey's almost trapped behind it for much of the show. The costuming of the female characters gives us excellent differentiation and adds to each character's perspective (with particular note to Jeffrey's early bra removal as a lovely detail). The male characters do suffer slightly for this because their costumes don't feel as clearly thought out. This is especially the case for the character of Bryan, who, without a suit or sports coat, doesn't so much feel like a businessman and trader but rather a waiter or groomsman. The lighting is simple but effective, and the use of sound and physical effects for the gunshots was very effective.

It is worth noting that, although the show is advertised as 90 minutes, the run time was close to 2 hours. This may tighten up over the course of the run, but it is worth mentioning just in case anyone needs a leg stretch or a restroom break with that timing in mind.

One to duck down to catch at Melville before they move to their new space in 2024. With recognisable characters and a fun story, there's something for every audience member to grab onto.

Madeline Page (Molly Rivers) with Nikki Di Camillo (Tess Thornton) in the background. Image provided by theatre company.

Reviewer Note: Kate has previously performed at Melville Theatre Company, most recently in 2022. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.


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