23 November 2007
By Francesca Whiting
Philip de Gouveia's play about the six wives of the controversial
American psychologist Timothy Leary, who died in 1996, is a
remarkable first achievement.
Most famous for advocating the therapeutic and spiritual benefits of
LSD, Leary was sentenced to 30 years in prison for possession of
marijuana in 1966 (he later won his appeal), was again sent to prison
in 1970, but escaped, married five times (the sixth in the title was
his common law wife) and after he died, became one of the first
people to have his remains sent into space.
And, in a play spanning the ages from the fifties to the nineties,
his six wives each tell their story of what it was like being married
to the man who coined the popular phrase, 'Turn on, tune in, drop out'.
Each woman recounts her story to people who cannot be seen or heard
by the audience and how each of them goes about this reveals a great
deal about their relationship with Leary.
Wife number one, Marianne (Hetty Abbott), tells her story to a guest
at a party, his second wife Mary (Lisa Came) speaks to a journalist
at a restaurant, his third wife Nena (Anna Brook) talks to a lover,
his fourth wife Rosemary (Charlotte Donachie) addresses a rally,
common law wife Joanna (Katharine Bennett-Fox) speaks to Leary when
he is in prison and his last wife Barbara (Alison Baker) talks to his
spirit at his funeral.
With so many different voices and experiences to be heard over a
40-year period, the play could easily have degenerated into
confusion, but director Timothy Hughes keeps the story tight, giving
each wife a distinct voice and look, each with her own mannerisms and
ways of moving around the sparsely-designed stage, while snatches of
music including jazz and rock'n'roll keep us informed of the era.
It takes very little time to become immersed in their stories and
there is no weak link - each actress is totally in tune with her
character, successfully managing to communicate the highs and lows of
being married to Leary.
And it isn't all heavy going - there are some lovely comic moments
too, such as when Mary tries several times to get the attention of a
waitress and Joanna asks Leary for a pen when she's visiting him in prison.
In the programme it states the play is not intended to be a factual
representation of the characters and events portrayed - and there's a
fair chunk of Leary's life that isn't really touched upon - but then,
as the title suggests, the play is really about his six wives.
Philip de Gouveia
Weaver Hughes Ensemble
Hetty Abbott, Alison Baker, Katharine Bennett-Fox, Anna Brook, Lisa
Came, Charlotte Donachie
Production information can change over the run of the show.
November 20-December 9