On Centre Stage.
By Douglas Kennedy
Love and Marriage Go together Like….?
Love and marriage goes together in a distinctly oddball, left of centre, fashion in the Queensland Theatre Company’s (QTC) first offering for 2015.
David Mamet’s Boston Marriage was first performed in Australia by the Melbourne Theatre Company, back in June 2010, but now it’s getting its premier professional Queensland outing with a stellar cast and technical team courtesy of the QTC.
The production – which has been written about in Hush Hush Biz’s theatre columns – features Amanda Muggleton and Rachel Gordon as Anna and Claire, who live together on the edgy fringes of society in what is known as a Boston Marriage.
This sophisticated turn of the 19th century sex comedy of what’s been described as, ‘bad manners,’ awash with ‘sarcasm and ribald banter,’ centres on Anna (Muggleton) accepting gifts from a gentleman admirer and Claire’s outrageous bid to race off what can only be described as a ‘toy girl.’
The two ageing characters are battling to hold their own in a most disgraceful way, while taking time out to make their maid’s life miserable. The maid is played by Helen Cassidy.
So without trawling over old ground On Centre Stage (OCS) decided to take a closer look at the origins of the Boston Marriage and the Edwardian women known as Boston Wives.
The term, which Wikipedia carefully describes as a reference to women living together in possibly ‘physical or emotional intimacy’ had its origins in Henry James’ 1886 novel The Bostonians.
James’ sister, Alice, was living in such a relationship, but who knows how far it went as ‘coming out of the closet’ probably only existed as a parlour game in polite society then.
While male homosexuality has really pissed-off most societies down the centuries, female same sex relationships have tended to go under the radar.
The practice was never outlawed in the UK and laws were suggested in America’s early colonial years, but were never acted upon or rejected outright.
There’s a bit of myth that no one had the courage to approach Queen Victoria on the subject of female sexuality, but the contemporary belief is that the establishment didn’t bother too much because they reckoned you couldn’t be too dangerous without a penis.
Mamet wrote his popular play in 1999 – it was first staged by the American Repertory Company at the quaintly named Hasty Pudding Theater in Massachusetts – it has had a well-rounded international run since.
The writer –who won a Pulitzer Prize for the all-male 1984 masterpiece Glengarry Glen Ross – is along with actor William H. Macy – a pioneer of a theatrical technique known as Practical Aesthetics.
The acting style, which includes an uncluttered approach to the art form, has been studied and embraced by director Andrea Moor.
The production will be staged at the QPAC Playhouse Theatre from January 24-February 15 and for more background on the show catch another Hush Hush article in the magazine’s theatre section.
Some interesting trivia with links to Boston Marriage.
. Despite America’s reputation as a deeply conservative country it is now estimated that 55 per cent of the population support the idea of same sex marriage.
. Boston is America’s fourth largest city hosting a female gay community with 60 per cent same sex relationships for women.
. English-born actress Amanda Muggleton has a wealth of theatrical roles in her CV, but folk still refer back to Chrissie Latham from Prisoner (1979-83) on TV and Shirley Valentine on stage. She once told this scribe that her mum saw an impressive production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives in the West End while carrying Amanda. Privates Lives principal female character? Amanda. It would seem the theatre is in Amanda Muggleton’s DNA.
. Actress Helen Cassidy was born in England and came to Brisbane aged nine. During an interview for a La Boite production of As You Like It she was reported to have said as a teen she dreamt of a Hollywood career and marriage to Johnny Depp, but is now happy doing serious theatre in Australia.
. Boston Marriage director Andrea Moor reportedly left Brisbane to pursue acting opportunities in 1979 vowing never to return, but is now enjoying phenomenal success in Brisbane including wining a Matilda Award last year for directing the much applauded Venus in Furs.
. Rachel Gordon’s great-grandfather was Australian PM Joseph Lyons and his wife, Dame Enid Lyons, was the first woman to win a seat in the House of Representatives.
. Mamet’s actress wife, Rebecca Pidgeon, played Claire in the original Hasty Pudding Theater production and Zoe Wanamaker Anna in the London outing.
. Playwright and journalist Eric Scott tells OCS that there was an amateur production of Boston Marriage, but details are scarce.