It is astounding that before now audiences have not been able to enjoy the rhythm and rhyme of Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry as it should be – spoken and performed.
WIFE does just this, and exceptionally well. It is a series of performance poetry – pieces from Carol Ann’s “The World’s Wife” interspersed with speeches and lyrics from modern day influential women. From The Devil’s Wife and Mrs Icarus to Adele and Michelle Obama, the play is an exploration of womanhood through the ages.
The phrase “behind every great man, is a great woman” has never been more relevant as the audience comes face-to-face with the overlooked wives of men we are all familiar with. We meet Mrs Beast who assures us the sex is better with a beast than a man while Mrs Faust casually recalls the fun she had after her hubby made a deal with the devil.
Carol Ann’s daughter, Ella Duffy, is the star of this one-woman show and is more than convincing in her embodiment of the female characters she plays out. Visually, Duffy assumes the traditional role of a wife. She stands at a table in a kitchen with pots, pans and knives. Behind her, dresses drape over a washing line.
Via white cards labelled with the names of each character, Duffy is able to signpost to the audience every time a new persona is being introduced.
Millennials will recognise pieces from our poet laureate, her work included in the GCSE English Literature volume of set texts. At fifteen, the double entendre of being on the “batter” passed me by but in this enactment of Salome, the gossiping tone of Carol Ann’s crude description is fully revealed.
Credit must go to the director, Robbie Taylor Hunt, for the well-balanced order of the monologues and ebb and flow of the play as a whole. Whether it be through the use of movement, music, lighting or props, each woman’s story is unique. Despite all these women being wronged in one way or another by a man, male bashing never felt like a labored theme in the play – Carol Ann’s tongue-in- cheek style no doubt helped to make light of these damned women’s plights.
One minute this play was laugh-out-loud funny (Duffy holding a raw sausage with her marigolds on while reciting Frau Freud’s rantings about dicks, pricks and shlongs) the next, Michelle Obama’s final speech as the First Lady played on the speakers, conjuring a mood of quiet reflection.
Duffy’s timing is impeccable. And it is this underplayed, nonchalant way the half-rhymes and end rhymes roll off her tongue and the placing of phrases and pauses that make the play equally funny and profound. Her seamless transitions from woman to woman and changing accents are testament to her great skill as an actor.
In “The World’s Wife”, Carol Ann Duffy wanted to give a fresh or subversive perspective on familiar stories or characters. WIFE takes an already tantalisingly creative anthology of poetry to a new level of imagination.
Review by Alice Durrans
Airlock Theatre presents
EDINBURGH PREVIEW: WIFE
Based on and incorporating poems from Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘The World’s Wife’ with verbatim pieces and contributions.
Written by Airlock Theatre
Directed by Robbie Taylor Hunt
Mrs. Icarus, Eleanor Roosevelt, Queen Herod, Constance Wilde, Mrs. Quasimodo…
Based on and incorporating ‘The World’s Wife’ by Carol Ann Duffy, this is a journey through history and mythology from the obscured, female perspective. Including poetry, physical theatre, puppetry and verbatim, this is an exploration of womanhood through the ages.
After all, behind every great man…