Source: The List (Issue 608)
Date: 31 July 2008
Written by: Alastair Mabbott
The Six Wives of Timothy Leary explores the 1960s counterculture icon
from the perspective of the women who married him, as Alastair
Timothy Leary's place in history has long been assured. A tireless
proponent of LSD, he enhanced his notoriety with a daring prison
escape and life as a fugitive before recovering some of his glory in
the techno-pagan 90s.
Hollywood writers have struggled in vain to bring his story to
audiences. Perhaps Leary was too multi-faceted to be portrayed on
stage or screen. But that very problem seems to have been the key to
the success of The Six Wives of Timothy Leary. Written by first-time
playwright Philip de Gouveia, the play shows the acid guru at
different points in his life from the perspectives of the six women he married.
While the Leary each one remembers is quite different, there were
consistencies running through his life, as de Gouveia explains. 'On
the one hand, he was very charismatic and he loved people. He really
wanted to achieve and to be significant. At the same time as he was
preaching the death of ego – and genuinely loving people and sort of
trying to be altruistic in what he did – he was also incredibly
egotistical, very selfish and treated a lot of the people around him
'These women were defined by Timothy Leary, but he actually enabled
them as well,' adds director Timothy Hughes. 'They were thinkers in
their own right: strong, independent women who were then attracted to
the Leary way of being.'
The play touches on the complexities of a man whose father left home
when Leary was 11, and whose overbearing mother had huge expectations
of her son. It also shows the surviving wives learning from their
experiences and moving on. More important than why Leary couldn't
sustain relationships, says de Gouviea, is 'how you can be in love
and also why love can fail. But why it's so important to keep looking.'
The Six Wives of Timothy Leary, Pleasance Dome, 556 6550, 3–24 Aug
(not 11, 19), 5pm, £8–£9 (£6.50–£7.50). Previews 31 Jul–2 Aug, £5.