In 1717, three young women strove to discover ‘what we might attain unto if we were as industrious to cultivate our minds as we are to adorn our bodies’, and so set up the society after which this play is named. Meeting in secret, the three led a group containing six other women, who in this performance are represented by the enraptured and amused audience.
Perhaps the most impressive feat of Porter’s writing is its playful relevance to modern politics, evoked through references made with such subtlety and integration into the narrative as not to disrupt suspension of disbelief.
Intelligently witty and yet charmingly unpretentious, Lucy Porter’s script explores the feminist struggle for the right to education side by side with the teenage struggle with gossip, friendship and sex. Perhaps the most impressive feat of Porter’s writing is its playful relevance to modern politics, evoked through references made with such subtlety and integration into the narrative as not to disrupt suspension of disbelief. For example, tensions caused by the upcoming Scottish referendum are wonderfully allegorised through tensions between the characters of Thalia and Clio. Just occasionally, the attempts at humour feel a little forced and fall uncomfortably from the mouths of characters who are too well developed to undo themselves with ill-fitting puns. This, however, is a minor issue, for much of this production’s strength is in the quality of the humour it brings to its feminist message.
Actors Jessica Hardwick, Caroline Deyga, Samara MacLaren all weave between the serious and the silly with as much ease as the script from which they work. They have a fantastic rapport with both each other and their audience, the latter being heightened by effective use of a thrust stage, which enhances the leader/follower dynamic created between the performers and their audience.
The Fair Intellectual Club has real gusto and whilst it may not be as revolutionary as the women who inspired it, it’s heart-warming and entertaining and I left feeling privileged to be a woman who writes.