Sylvia Plath - Three Women, The First Revival

The Assembly Rooms

Theatre Reviewed by William McEvoy

Originally a radio play, Sylvia Plath’s Three Women is a stunning piece of writing about pregnancy and childbirth, spiky, teeming with extraordinary metaphors, tapping into a feminine experience one sees and hears so rarely. This first-class production, while never quite escaping the static origins of the source material, is both powerful and compelling.

It is, perhaps, more character-based than one might anticipate. Sylvia Plath was Sylvia Plath’s own best subject matter, but here, she creates The Wife (Louise Clein), The Secretary (Neve McIntosh) and The Student (Lara Lemon). Their voices are distinct, their personas different – sometimes calm, sometimes oneiric, often pained and impassioned. McIntosh in particular is gripping as the young secretary whose body refuses to carry pregnancies to full term, charting the serial miscarriages and the pain they inflict.

Director Robert Shaw rightly allows Plath’s writing to be the star of the show, introducing some subtle movement and other decisions, but never distracting from the words. The set is so simple it almost works abstractly.

Clein is strong as the rural mother modelled on Plath’s years in Devon, likewise Lara Lemon excels as the young, wistful student.

This is a highly impressive performance of a text that is richly poetic and despite its radio-play origins, one that should be seen, not least because it still feels fresh and new and radical to hear women talking frankly about motherhood and their body.

Published online
Review by
William McEvoy
Produced by
Inside Intelligence
Written by
Sylvia Plath
Directed by
Robert Shaw
Running time
50 minutes
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