Age of Arousal channels sexual energy and feminist zeal
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 06, 2013 06:00 am
Age of Arousal
March 7 to 17
C103 (formerly Catalyst Theatre)
8529 Gateway Blvd.
Tickets available through venue
Just the title ‘Age of Arousal’ hints at the lush eroticism of carnal love. Just how bacchanalian the latest Maggie Tree production is will be revealed at tomorrow’s opening night at C103, formerly Catalyst Theatre.
In this Edmonton premiere of Age of Arousal, playwright Linda Griffiths takes theatergoers to 1885 London, England. It was an odd moment in history in post-emigration Britain when women outnumbered men by 500,000 leaving many single women out of the matrimonial circle.
“The imbalances started to ask questions about female sexuality. Is sexual energy only for men, or is it allowed for women?” says Maggie Tree co-founder Vanessa Sabourin, a former St. Albert Children’s Theatre actress.
Now a Calgary resident and artistic director for Urban Curves, Sabourin is wearing the producer’s hat for this production.
Griffiths concocts a six-character show centred on Mary (Sandra Nicholls), an ex-suffragette who runs a philanthropic school for secretaries with her teacher-lover, Rhoda (Kristi Hansen). Rhoda bumps into an old friend Virginia and discovers she and her sister are living in poverty. Rhoda invites them to the school for secretaries to learn a few skills.
Bu there are bumps in this well-laid plan. Either the sisters are incompetent typists or they are focused on the sexual revolution. Everard Barfoot (Jessie Gervais), Mary’s cousin, an ex-doctor enters just before he is about to embark on a life of leisure. Almost immediately there is a role reversal and the sexy ensemble erupts with new discoveries.
“Linda does a wonderful job of combining modern sensibilities with 1800 styles. The images of bodice-ripping run right through.”
Sabourin and Hansen jointly conceived Maggie Tree as a company that would give leadership roles to women and tell women’s stories from the female perspective.
Up until now women have directed all productions. Wayne Paquette, artistic director of Blarney Productions brought Age of Arousal to the company’s attention.
“We loved the script and were surprised nobody was picking it up.”
Instead of directing it, the Sabourin-Hansen team handed the directorial reins to Paquette.
“Wayne is a director of great sensitivity and skill. Because Wayne is a super artist and has a real passion for the script he was the obvious choice. Why should it be only women supporting the agenda? By including men, it makes it a two-way dialogue, not just one perspective.”
For Sabourin, the play is summed up as being true to yourself.
“It has elements of farce. It’s bright, enlivening and full of tension. It’s a very funny piece and people will enjoy it. It’s a risky piece but that’s what drew us to it.”