Wisteria and Waspish Women

Published: 29-Apr-2016 by All Theatre

The Enchanted April, a novel, was written just after the end of the First World War. Four women respond to a London newspaper advertisement appealing to "those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine" to rent a small medieval Italian castle. 
Pymble Players director Jennifer Willison wanted a “light soft romance” which she described as also being “mixed with humour”. The book has since been rewritten as a play by Matthew Barber, Enchanted April. In his website on the play Barber said at first he was put off by the book’s flowery cover. But said he was soon smitten by the author’s “stingingly witty voice”. Willison agreed. “The women are always making snide remarks to their husbands, which go over their heads. It’s very clever.”
But where did the pathos of this play originate? “The women feel put in their place at home. They are just the ‘little women’, who don’t need to think, vote, have a career, and just need to think about what’s for dinner tonight. They don’t make the decisions - everything is done by the husbands.” Elizabeth von Arnim (a pseudonym) wrote the story in a castle in Tuscany - the very same castle the ladies go to in the play!
“It was written in 1922, just after World War I. Young men had been killed and wounded. The women, who did a lot of the war work, were relegated to the home… They felt discontented – like they were missing something.” Willison said.
Willison said to compensate, many people in British society “used religion as a crutch”, or carried on in idle entertainment, such as flapper parties and drinking, in an attempt “to bury the horror” of war. 
There was also a sense of uncertainty. After all the play is set between two world wars! Willison said there was a lot of subtext to the play. “On the surface it’s light, frothy, and charming. But there are layers for different characters – reasons for why they are behaving in a certain way, to do with what’s gone on before. You can define the moment they change. It’s uplifting.” The first act is set in rainy England, but Willison expects by the second act audiences will feel transported to the beautiful Italian countryside.
“It’s an experience that will delight, charm and amuse…Enchanted April mixes nostalgia and pathos with humour. There are things everyone understands, even in today’s age.” Neutral Bay resident Willison has a 40-year association with the Pymble Players. She was the artistic director of Warringah Youth Theatre for 17 years, and was also on the board of Glen Street Theatre. Willison said she valued the camaraderie and support she received from the Pymble Players’ committee. 
Season Starting: Wednesday, 4th of May

Enchanted April plays May 4 - 28, 2016

Address: Corner of Mona Vale Road & Bromley Avenue, Pymble NSW 2073 

 

See more at www.alltheatre.com.au