Our Spring Season reaches a dramatic climax with Wife, a new one-woman show which opens on Monday 10th April, and runs until the 13th. Adapted from The World’s Wife, a poetry collection by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, it tells the stories of wives through history, art and legend, and how they are obscured. We sat down with director Robbie Taylor Hunt and star Ella Duffy (the daughter of Carol Ann) to discuss the process of staging this exciting play.
What inspired you to adapt Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry? What drew you to her poems in particular?
Robbie Taylor Hunt: Ella and I came to the project wanting to do a one-woman show, and I’d already been interested in creating a play based on some inspiring women from through history. The World’s Wife follows various wives and how their stories have been obscured by their husbands. We loved the exploration of mythological characters, which we thought would be interesting to lace between monologues from historical women. Carol Ann’s poetry is so personal and frank that it really lends itself to theatre – so we knew it would work well in a performance setting, and were excited about finding how this might happen.
How will the experience of watching the play differ from reading the poems? What does it gain from being dramatised?
RTH: The poems already leap off the page , you can absolutely hear these very different women talking honestly about their experiences. Hopefully through dramatising them we are putting forward how we heard and saw these characters. We’ve used movement, music and even some puppetry in ways that we feel enhance the stories that are explored. Obviously in staging the poems, it has allowed us to add physical elements to their drama and comedy, which we hope allows the audience to take away something new from them.
As a one woman play, rehearsals must have been intense. Tell us more about the rehearsal process.
Ella Duffy: I actually found the process to be more intense when I was out of the rehearsal room. The idea of playing over 20 different characters was pretty daunting, but as soon as I was back in rehearsal with Robbie, things definitely settled. We started with a couple of read-throughs before moving onto character and text work. We then moved onto blocking the show in small chunks, building it up slowly. This structured approach to rehearsals along with Robbie’s fun-loving attitude made the process extremely enjoyable!
The World’s Wife is almost 20 years old. Why are these poems still relevant to a modern audience?
RTH: In the poems we meet women who have been obscured by their husbands. This inspired the play’s exploration of brilliant women whose husbands are often better known, as well as engaging with certain archetypes of womanhood. It’s been 20 years but gender inequality still exists. Women are still obscured in most areas of society. Women’s representation is severely limited and the poems, and our play, gives a wider representation of women’s experiences than are normally given in history books, art and in the media. The play also tackles some of the more stereotypical representations we have grown to expect and some women who have been stereotyped through history.
How much influence has Carol Ann had on the creation of the script and the staging?
ED: She was very helpful with reading drafts and making small suggestions, but was keen to give us the creative freedom to do what we wanted with the text.
In one sentence, why should people come to see the show?
ED: Hearing so many strong female voices in one show is pretty rare: Wife brings to the stage unapologetic, funny, loud, dark and feisty women who will inspire and terrify in equal measure.
If you are a fan of theatre, poetry and gender equality, Wife is a must-see. It runs from the 10th-13th April. Book your tickets now: