One of the things that I feel most personally robbed of by the pandemic is the cosy ritual of going to the theatre. Having always been a theatre kid at heart, I’ve found comfort in reading the plays I so desperately miss seeing live. Here are three iconic plays by female writers to keep your inner thespian well-fed while we all stay at home.
The Welkin, Lucy Kirkwood
Set in 1759, somewhere between Norfolk and Suffolk, Kirkwood’s set of female characters are as diverse and un-theatrical as possible. Twelve women, played by actors of all backgrounds, are gathered together to decide whether a young criminal is pregnant, as she claims. From the costumes to the topics of conversation that the women spar with – which include, but are not limited to, orgasms, childbirth, social class, and murder – the entire play is messy and unforgiving. Throughout its three-hour run time, it holds onto you and pins you into your seat and every minute is packed with discomfort and intrigue.
A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
This play was originally published in 1959 and tells the story of a Black family living in South Side, Chicago. The family, having recently lost their patriarch, all have different ideas about how to secure financial freedom. Through their chasing the American Dream, Hansberry uses her characters to show how people of colour have been challenged to “mutilate” themselves and abandon their culture for the prize of white acceptance. A Raisin in the Sun has been heralded by both The Independent and Time Out as one of the best plays ever written.
A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, Eimear McBride
Though not initially written as a play, Annie Ryan’s adaptation of the 2013 novel shows that the stream-of-consciousness style utilised by McBride has always had a theatrical feel to it. This is a perfect example of how literary forms can blend and mix together. I highly recommend any thespian to pick up the book and imagine it (as Ryan does) as a monologue. Initially, the experimental style can be a little difficult to wrap your head around, as the lack of conventional storytelling makes it sometimes tricky to follow the plot. However, the poetic approach to girlhood that we see in McBride’s work is well worth the unusual approach.