After Birthday, My Warren


Almost Free Theatre, London (1973)

Sometime in the early seventies I was approached by Ed Berman, artistic director of the Almost-Free Theatre in Rupert Street, W1, to write "two sexy pieces" for his Fun-Art Bus (the idea was to tour trendy Camden, with performances on the top deck.)  As a display of righteous indignation at this chauvinist request I wrote After Birthday, a monologue about a girl on remand for shoving her baby down the lav (not infrequent at main line stations), and My Warren about a middle-aged office drudge sent a vibrator by vicious younger colleagues and, hating waste, using it.  (If no-one loves you, there's always yourself.)  Ed took it on the chin, and put the pieces on in his theatre.  Thanks to two fine, and brave, actresses, Sheila Kelley and Janet Henfrey, we were a success.  There was a hunger for plays by and about women and Ed decided to mount a season.  A working group was formed, we asked for women directors, administrators and designers, and, after many readings, a group of plays was selected.

         I don't know why I chose to submit a sexy piece, with language, nudity and the odd joint.  I may have been nervous of over-seriousness - these were the days of heroic neo-feminism.  It was also the baroque era of later hippie-dom - purple flares, sitar, pseudo-Marxism and big hair.  A lively time, with money for fashionable Fringe Theatre - this was before OPEC spoilt the party.

    I think I was worried by the dismissal of the maternal in current feminist thinking.  Conjugality might need a rethink - babies still needed what babies have always needed, nourishment, protection and love.  I threw in a few Greenpeace pleas for good measure.

      All of the plays were well-received by the public and out of that season The Women's Theatre Group was created.  Today, under the name Sphinx, it flourishes.

                                                                                                                                   Pam Gems