118: Origin of the Species

17 Jul

Bryony Lavery is a prolific playwright. She must write plays as fast as some of us read them!

In her introduction to Methuen Drama’s Byrony Lavery: Plays 1 (interestingly she has two different volumes of Plays 1, this one and the Faber version, both containing different plays), Bryony Lavery talks about being commissioned to write Origin of Species and having a three-week exploratory session with the two actors and director.

“We wanted to do a play about EVERYTHING … but we somehow ended up in the thick soup of assumptions and guesses, mainly written by men, which is the history of evolution.”

eraly human skull

What she decided to create was a play about ‘Woman’. Molly is an old lady who digs up her ancestor: a four-million-year-old woman, miraculously alive. Molly names her Victoria and smuggles her home with her to Yorkshire.

MOLLY: Less of a chatterbox …
but the same species …
Four million years ago,
in this head here,
there developed an organ,
whose job was merely to collect information about the gathering of food
and below it this jaw
developed merely to produce a limited range of
articulated sound.
In this ball of bone here
is the origin of the human intellect …

Molly seeks to educate Victoria, starting by teaching her to talk. As they start to communicate, Molly realises that many of her assumptions were wrong: Woman was the great discoverer and inventor, not Man. The two play games, share concepts, meals and brandy until Victoria, the ‘unevolved’, becomes the same as Molly and able to form questions of her own.

Origin of the Species is a strong feminist piece, verging on didactic, but with enough of a sense of play to keep it lively.

Publisher: Methuen Drama (published in Bryony Lavery: Plays 1)

Cast: 2F

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