Ursula Invents Old Woman

Ursula K Le Guin, noted author of A Wizard of Earthsea, is visited by an alien adopting her form. The extraterrestrial wants the answer to the question: “What is old woman?” This, eventually, is the plot of Ursula Invents Old Woman. I say “eventually” because of the length of time it takes to get there.

I get what Ursula Invents Old Woman is trying to do – but I’m not convinced this is the way to do it.

The audience spend the first five minutes listening to BBC radio in the dark – I’m not sure why. The eponymous writer then comes out for about a minute before we are treated to an odd, sloppy interpretive dance section by the alien. Then the plot starts.

This beginning is somewhat indicative of the writing which tends to be too fast-paced, unsubtle and simplistic. The line “I am finding this very disturbing,” actually appears in the script. The supposed comedy comes from the activities of the alien whose approximation of human speech relies on the use of tangentially relevant advertising clichés. Once his speech patterns become predictable and his inhumanity pushes the character out of sympathetic range, it’s not particularly effective. This is a problem especially once he becomes the intended focal point of audience emotion.

The writing has some upsides. There’s an interesting running theme about masculinity as the default state of being. This theme is examined through the comparison between Le Guin and Ernest Hemingway. However, these highlights are lost among the rushed plot which focuses more on telling than showing, not to mention the inclusion of a strange E.T.-esque sex act.

Performances are a bit of a mixed bag. Both actors bring strong characters, particularly Mason Rosenthal as the alien, whose physicality matches the strangeness of his dialogue. Marcia Rosenthal (who plays Le Guin) has more dramatic subtlety. I particularly liked the section where she slips into a comforting Wisconsin accent, until I found out that Le Guin and her family are actually from California where the accent is very different. With both actors there is a tendency to switch modes too suddenly instead of slipping from state to state in an organic way.

I get what Ursula Invents Old Woman is trying to do – it addresses the lack of attention and understanding for women past childbearing age. But I’m not convinced this is the way to do it.

Reviews by Bennett Bonci

Gilded Balloon Teviot

So You Think You're Funny? Grand Final

★★★
Assembly Rooms

To Hell in a Handbag

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Teviot

Tiff Stevenson: Bombshell

★★★★
Greenside @ Infirmary Street

War of the Sperms

★★★
theSpace on the Mile

Church Blitz

★★★
King's Theatre

The Divide - Part 2

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Ursula K Le Guin, award-winning science fiction author, is in the midst of a major period of writer's block. Then her world is turned upside down when she is visited by her biggest fan: an agender being from another galaxy. In their time together this unlikely pair will have intergalactic intercourse, practice formlessness, and invent old woman. This original work is co-created by three artists of different ages: Marcia Ferguson – Director of Theatre Arts, UPenn; Mason Rosenthal – FringeArts Fellow, NYU Faculty; and trans-identified playwright M J Kaufman – Huntington Theatre Playwriting Fellow, MFA Yale.

Most Popular See More

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mary Poppins

From £37.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Wicked

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Witness for the Prosecution

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets