A delightfully middle-aged Di Adams plays the role of Hester in the Griffin production Wicked Sisters and she is delighted to be back on the stage, and delighted to be in a play by feminist Alma de Groen that feels “even more relevant than ever”.
The play sets the lives and relationships of four middle-aged women, Meridee, Judith, Lydia and Hester, against a computer created by Meridee’s deceased husband Alec Hobbes. A social Darwinist (without the humaneness of Darwin) and AI researcher, Hobbes believed in a ruthlessly competitive universe. After his death, the computer continues to work in Meridee’s sitting room evolving strategies for artificial lifeforms so that they can survive.
The women visit the bereaved and isolated Meridee and they are looking forward to a weekend of reminiscing and wine. But as Adams points out, their witty camaraderie disintegrates as their tongues loosen and each reveal secrets they otherwise might never have spoken of, and a desire to avenge past hurts. To an extent, Adam observes, what is happening on the computer screen is being “mirrored in the room”.
Hester is, as Adams says, “a fascinating, tricky character who stirs things up” – “and there is plenty to stir up”, she adds. While Meridee has tip-toed around her extremely controlling husband all her married life, and Judith and Lydia look to men for validation, Hester is self-sufficient and an unapologetic feminist. She remains focussed as she has come with an agenda but she is also in for some surprises. The audience, says Adams, has expectations of Hester but will, or can, she fulfil them?
The influence of the narcissistic autocratic Alec looms large over the lives of the women. Adams describes him as a man “totally lacking in empathy” which brings to mind the US elections and the general dominance of politics at present by dictatorial men. Despite, or because of, women’s rights groups, “the Boys’ Club seems stronger than ever”, Adams says.
Does Wicked Women offer a way forward? It offers entertainment: farcical moments, intense moments, and moments that provoke a deep response. You will need to see the play and decide for yourself.
But as a play written for four very diverse middle-aged women it was, and still is revolutionary. The dynamic Adams is well aware of the paucity of plays that offer talented, spirited and professional older women the opportunity to continue to pursue their vocation.
Wicked Sisters has relocated to the Reginald Theatre at the Seymour Centre, until December 12.