We have many good actors in NZ, but Page is in the global league. Her performance was riveting and stunning. You can see why she won the Helen Hayes Award for Best Actress. She has a mastery of the stage which is compelling. A slight narrowing of the eyes can convey so much. A slight change in pitch speaks volumes.
The play is about the life of Sylvia Plath, set on the day of her suicide aged 30. It’s a very sombre and gripping play. Page narrates the life of Plath ranging from her childhood to her death.
Plath, a Pulitizer Prize winner, was married to UK Poet Laureate Ted Hughes. A lot of the play focused on their relationship. He is the charming urbane womaniser, she is the neurotic masochistic victim. She is mentally unstable – her first suicide attempt was at age nine. Later in life she has electroconvulsive therapy.
An enduring controversy has been how much Hughes is to blame for her death. He left her for his mistress (who later also committed suicide, in the same manner as Plath). There were accusations he abused her, and for 20 years her gravestone was constantly vandalised to remove his name from it.
Page makes Plath real. She is funny, brittle, sad, mad, and strong at varying times. You get a picture of her loves and fears. It made me want to go buy the biography of Plath that the play is based on.
By coincidence there was a Q+A with Page after the play, moderated by Ran Henwood. A fascinating 45 minute discussion on Plath and the play. Questions ranged from whether Plath really intended to kill herself (she had many previous unsuccessful attempts which might have been cries for help) to what did people who knew Sylvia think of the play.
This isn’t a play that will appeal t everyone, but if you like dramatic solo performances, then this is as good as it gets.
It is on every second night at Circa, alternating with Turning Page (the story of Page’s famous mother), so is on Fri 12, Sun 14, Wed 17 and Sat 20 June.