Gemma James-Smith and Ellen-Ray Hennessy - Age of Arousal

Thursday Theatre Review: Age of Arousal

Age of Arousal is set in 1885 London, England. Based on George Gissing's 1893 novel The Odd Women, the show begins with an ex-militant suffragette, Mary Barfoot, who runs a school for secretaries with her lover, Rhoda. Things get shaken up when "The school's invasion by three spinster sisters and a charismatic cad named Everard, creates a catalyst for political, sexual and emotional explosion."

The show is dynamic and blends a historical feel with some coy present-day language snuck in, forcing the viewer to think about what has, and has not, been achieved in the battle for equality between the sexes, and even what equality means.

My show-partner for this one was Chris, someone who I went to university with for theatre, and who has certainly maintained his love for the stage.

He and I both enjoyed the show very much. Chris pointed out that one of his litmus tests is how long a show feels and said that although this one was over two hours it didn't half that long.

I was curious how he would react to this show, what ways he would relate to the subject matter. He said that he did feel a gender-divide, and that he probably wasn't relating in the same way I was, but that it wasn't a problem for him. He talked about how there is a feeling of disconnect, being a man watching a discussion of female gender identity, but that it wasn't a problem, just something interesting to note. He enjoyed the show. Full stop.

When I asked him what his favourite part was he told me that he loved the dry wit, that in this show the scathing aside is a an art form. I have to agree. I admit, before going to the show, I was a bit concerned that it would be too didactic for my tastes. I was worried it would be trying to beat me over the head with a message. But it didn't. There was a message, I got it, I learned things, but I also enjoyed the humour, sometimes irreverent, often dry, always delightful. But it wasn't just the laughter that drew me in, the characters struggled for answers, nothing was black and white, I wanted to be a part of that discovery.

This would be a great show to go to when you have time for a coffee or a pint afterwards to compare thoughts with a friend.

- Age of Arousal runs in the Factory Theatre Mainstage (125 Bathurst) until December 16
- Showtimes are Tuesday - Saturday at 8pm, Wednesday 12:30pm, Saturday 2pm, Sunday 2p.m.
- Ticket prices range from $25- $36 with PWYC Sundays and $12 Wednesday matinees
- Box office phone number is 416-504-9971, more details on the Nightwood Theatre web site

Photo of Gemma James-Smith and Ellen-Ray Hennessy by Guntar Kravis

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