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The Savage Sisters

Van Eeden Harrison Productions

Three young actors are rehearsing a play based on the lives of three seminal women authors: Jane Austen, Fanny Burney and Mary Wollstonecroft. While they try to portray aspects of the authors' lives, they find themselves exploring aspects of their own lives, and what it means to be a woman in 2005.

Written and directed by Janet van Eeden, this the third in her Savage Trilogy (the first two were A Savage from the Colonies about the life of Katherine Mansfield, and Oviri, The Savage Civilian, about the life of Paul Gauguin) explores the lives of the three authors through the eyes of the students who are putting on a play about the authors. As it turns out, their director has to miss the first rehearsal because her child is sick. The actors have to make a start on their own, much to the swottish Genevieve's disgust. She can't believe that people could be so unprofessional. She is horrified to hear that Vicky hasn't even read the play, and takes on the role of director herself as she tries to put some semblance of order into the rehearsal process. Marla, the third young actor, at least has done her homework and is up to speed with the characters in the play. After much annoyance, Genevieve manages to make a start, but even her best-laid plans are ruined when the authors decide to have their say too. The denouement brings us back to the present, where we discover the real reason behind Genevieve's unhappy disposition.

The play aims to inform the audience about the lives of the authors (even those who have never heard of them) and casts a reflecting light on the lives of women in society today. Genevieve is played by Cate Hornby, Vicky by Louise Buchler, and Marla by Avi Maistry.

This production is funded by The National Arts Council, SA and The Witness.


The Hilton Festival: 16th September, 6 pm; 17th September, 8 pm.

Website for viewing extracts from play and interview with author:


"Who would want to see a play about three women, one famous, two not, who lived a century and a half ago on the other side of the world? The answer is: everyone who is interested in how people think and feel; everyone who enjoys a feast of great words and everyone who wants to be stimulated by intelligent argument. Three talented performers play-act their way through roles written by someone else, trying on different characters to see if they fit their skin and gradually discover in these stage inventions mirrors of themselves which are not always flattering. And we in the audience, and they in front of us, become entangled in the discussions in a way not often experienced in theatre, we are them and they are us. Prejudice and bigotry are age-old and universal, as are the weapons of optimism and initiative to overcome them. The author's skill makes the ancient device of a play within a play within a play seem her own invention, and we leave with our heads spinning with questions and ideas and a smile from ear to ear."

Andrew Verster.
One of South Africa's most creative artists and designers.

"The Savage Sisters is a brave and innovative theatrical exploration of modes of creativity and their connection with strategies that women adopt to live, and not merely survive, as junior members of the human race."

Robert Greig
Arts editor
The Sunday Independent

LitNet: 31 August 2005

boontoe / to the top

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