The Sisterhood, Leicester Square Theatre - Review

Updating Molière's Les Femmes Savante to the present day, Ranjit Bolt's adaptation tackles intellectualism, the purpose of education and indirectly, feminism. The author pokes fun at both sexes,  but it is telling that with the women it is the worst traits of men that they've adopted that are lampooned.

Armande (Candice Price) a well-educated woman, is aghast that her younger sister Henriette (Maria Austin) is getting married and is not coy in letting anyone know her thoughts on the matter. However, there is more to this matter than meets the eye as Henriette's fiancé id Clitandre (Matthew Marrs) who used to be engaged to Armande before her 'intellectual pursuits' drove them apart.

However while Clitandre is prepared to marry Henrietta – with or without her mother's blessing and inheritance – the thought of a penniless marriage galls Henrietta. She suggests they get help from her aunts Ariste (Katherine Hartshorne) and Belise (Lia Hatzakiis) to help persuade her mother Philaminte (Rebecca Bell) of the worthiness of their match. However, Philaminte has someone else in mind as a suitable for Henriette – her artistic protégé Trissotin (Richard Swann)...

The Sisterhood is a play that works on many levels and one is most likely to get out of it what one brings to it. On the surface it is an inspired adaptation of a 17th century satire, a comedy of manners that would work as a Joe Orton-esque farce. However, beneath the caricatures, rhyming couplets and broad comedy lies a kernel of truth about intellectual 'snobbery' and the inherent artistic value of anything.

While Philaminte has instilled within her home for the 'love of learning' – turning it into a de facto educational establishment – this has been replaced with a complusion for acquring knowledge as a means to  sift one's true 'peers' from the rest of the pack. Case in point, of the servants who partake in Philaminte's 'collegial syllabus', it is  Martine (Danielle Williams) who gets short shrift of this academic regime, a casualty of this intellectual Darwinism.

It's not so common these days to see plays – let alone comedies – that have so many female roles, so it's all the more remarkable the original play was written 400 years ago. But within its 60+ minutes, The Sisterhood offers an entertaining foray into world where learning and one's humanity don't sit hand in hand, Of course if the ladies were studying the ideas of female authors, the play may ended very differently indeed!

© Michael Davis 2016

The Sisterhood runs at the Leicester Square Theatre until 6th July 2016.


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