THE MASKS OF APHRA BEHN – REVIEW – WHITE BEAR THEATRE

Only 2 to 3 percent of the world’s statues are of women – and if you strip away all those of Queen Victoria and turn your focus onto working-class women, the number decreases even more. This is despite the fact that there are plenty of heroines that have roamed the earth. One of them was undoubtedly the first female professional writer and alleged spy Aphra Behn.

Credit: Greg Veit

In 2022, when the Canterbury Commemoration Society asked for designs for the first ever Aphra statue, they received over forty proposals and are now very close to bringing the statue to Canterbury. Funds are currently raised to cover the last remaining costs (www.cantcommsoc.co.uk) and that seems to be the ideal time to bring the previously celebrated play The Masks of Aphra Behn back on stage.

This well-written monologue is completed with excerpts from Behn’s letters, poetry, and plays and tells the tale of her lesser-known endeavours as a spy for King Charles II rather than her career as a professional writer. It takes the audience back in time to 1677, where it gathers to watch Behn’s most recognised play, The Rover. Instead of an actress, the writer herself enters the stage and begins to tell the story of her extraordinary life from traveling to Suriname to meeting her soon-to-be husband on her way back to England to being employed by Charles II to gather information on the Dutch from one of her former lovers.

Credit: Greg Veit

The Masks of Aphra Behn is a fast-paced recollection of a life full of excitement and hardship, as the woman spy never got paid for her work (at least not enough to pay the ongoing bills). Claire Louise Amias brings this wonderfully edgy women to life with brilliant wit and charm. She connects immediately with the audience verbally and with almost piercing looks that demand full attention. I found myself following every word she says and admiring the easiness with which Amias switches between the characters Behn encounters. Both voice and posture change in an instant, often making the audience smile and giggle.

Director Pradeep Jey has done a great job using the little space with only a chair and some letters as props to create a captivating story. The simplicity of the stage and the costume (the latter by Anna Sørensen Sargent) as well as Keri Danielle Chesser’s un-intrusive sound design supported the performance ever so subtly.

Credit: Greg Veit

It was a pleasure seeing this extraordinary woman honoured on stage with so much humour, respect, and admiration.     

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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