By Geraldine Harris Elaine Aston
Relocating around the barriers of mainstream and experimental circuits, from the affective pleasures of commercially profitable indicates resembling Calendar ladies and Mamma Mia! to the feminist probabilities of new burlesque and stand-up, this booklet deals a lucid and obtainable account of renowned feminisms in modern theatre and function.
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Additional info for A Good Night Out for the Girls: Popular Feminisms in Contemporary Theatre and Performance
Hidden from feminism Calendar Girls opens to the strains of ‘Jerusalem’ (adopted by the WI as their national anthem) and the lights go up to reveal an all-female ensemble practising t’ai chi in slow motion moves. The women’s moves are badly and comically executed. Their Ying and Yang, heaven and earth, are not in balance. Later, towards the close of the play, the t’ai chi ensemble will be sentimentally repeated and perfectly executed as a symbol of personal transformation and collective harmony.
In other words, they are recycled and, therefore, reassuring’ (ibid: 62; original emphasis). Although cognisant of the hierarchical divide between the ‘profitable’ and the ‘pleasurable’, our critical interest resides, as Eve Sedgwick would have or put it, in ‘loosening up’ this dualism with a view to thinking otherwise: to revising a view of the popular (women’s) show as merely a disposable form of strictly unprofitable (in the social sense) culture. So, for instance, in respect to Calendar Girls, the line of feminist enquiry pursued here contrasts with that of the theatre critics who variously trashed the show on account of its popular credentials, wrote anxiously of its astonishing commercial success, and dismissively of its emotional (rather than intellectual) appeal to women’s audiences of a ‘certain age’.
In September 2008, the West End and touring production of the play has taken £26m at the box office. The 2003 film Calendar Girls, on which the stage play is based, grossed £60m worldwide’ (Youde, 2011). Gerry and I saw the show together at The Lowry, Manchester, North West England, on 20 February 2010. It played in the main house that seats 1,730, and was totally sold out. Audience responses as variously commented on in this chapter are based on this particularly viewing. That said, previously I had seen a matinee performance at the Noel Coward on 27 May 2009, where the response was comparable, but the audience composition differed somewhat.