Gentlemen publishers Tite and Snobbo have had enough of women in feminist literature, and their failure to accept their rightful place as subservient to men. So they’ve come up with a clever shredder, that takes out everything they don’t like from the texts and puts what's left back together in more appropriate form. In We Are Not A Muse, Proxy Moon Theatre have hit upon the neat trick of parodying patriarchy in reverse.
Tite and Snobbo – motto “We Know Better” – select the texts, and then act them out for us. Playing these stalwarts of the patriarchy, Signe Lury and Imogen Hayes are talented comic actors (and, as young women channelling older men playing the muses, get close to As You Like It levels of gender switching). Hayes simply has funny bones, managing to introduce a delicious level of ambiguity as Tite – who claims to be disgruntled at ending up in mainly the female roles, but appears to relish playing the muses with a coquetteish air.
The pieces selected are comparatively obscure texts by known authors: The River Girl, a work for children subverting traditional fairytales by poet Wendy Cope; The Lifted Veil by George Eliot; and The Unexpected by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (most famous for the feminist classic, The Yellow Wallpaper). Opening with a single more recognisable work may have made the performance more accessible – and possibly an easier sell.
The Unexpected is the most successful of the trilogy, as “noble male protagonist” Edward returns from his artistic metropolitan world for a funeral. He meets the “female muse”, his cousin Mary, and after incessant pestering he finally persuades her to marry him. But it turns out that Mary is secretly a very successful painter, at least as talented as Edward.
This is too much for Tite and Snobbo. The muse as creator? Good grief! Upon deciding that the work is inappropriately feminist, they use their unique shredder to destroy and then recreate the work in patriarchal from. The reformed text is speedily re-enacted, and Mary’s end is not so inspiring.
There is a suitable irreverence for the whole exercise, as Lury and Hayes undercut the storytelling with asides, announce which theatrical convenions they intend to mess around with next, and describe how they plan to stage the next bit. There is a litlle bit of padding as they repeat catchphrases and walk around the stage with scene titles, but it is all done with great charm.
The only problem is that We Are Not A Muse features the same trick played three times – and we got it the first time. It would have been good to have seen the concept pushed a bit further. But Proxy Moon Theatre are a young company making their Edinburgh debut, and while this show may be relatively lightweight, it is great fun and shows plenty of promise.