The Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch

23/03/2013 - 27/04/2013

Production Details


9 stellar actresses, 26 larger-than-life characters and 54 high-fashion frocks will transport audiences to 1940s New York in the deliciously sharp comedy, THE WOMEN.

In this sassy, sexy show a group of wives, girlfriends and mistresses navigate the glamorous jungle of high-society Manhattan, armed with the chicest fashions, latest hairdos and juiciest gossip. Written by Clare Boothe Luce and directed by Ross Gumbley, THE WOMEN is dripping with equal parts venom and wit.

“This play is stupendously funny” says Gumbley, “but is also – like all great comedies – founded on truth. It’s a brilliant and highly entertaining glimpse of what the fairer sex get up to when the rougher sex aren’t around.”

THE WOMEN opens on Saturday 23 March for a five-week season and features Eilish Moran, Laura Hill, Darien Takle, Juliet Reynolds-Midgley, Georgia Kate Heard, Amy Straker, Donna Brookbanks, Kathleen Burns and 13 year old Rosa Garcia-Knight in her Court Theatre debut.

23 March to 27 April 2013.
Mon, Thurs 6:30pm
Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat 7:30pm
For bookings: Phone (03) 963 0870
or visit 

Established in 1979, The Court Theatre is one of New Zealand’s premier theatre companies. The Court is a significant contributor to both the local economy and national arts sector, employing up to 80 equivalent full-time staff, actors and theatre practitioners.  

Sharp insights delivered with energy and sparkle

Review by Emily Spink 24th Mar 2013

The Court Theatre’s all-female comedy, The Women, offers an energetic and witty take on marriage, friendship and high-society fashion.  

Nine actresses, playing an astonishing range of characters who are at times wise and shallow and often despicable, keep the opening-night audience in high spirits throughout the more than 2-hour show. Their energetic performances are hilariously infectious and audience-goers laugh and gasp throughout the production.   

Artistic director Ross Gumbley’s take on Clare Boothe Luce’s classic comedy, set in 1940s Manhattan, clearly strikes a chord. The production encourages audience-goers to question their own views on what it means to be married, female, single and in love. 

Amy Straker, playing the complicated lead, Mrs Haines, gives a sincere portrayal of a married woman battling against a young ‘floozy’ and an unfaithful husband. Eilish Moran plays her friend Sylvia Fowler, and brings great energy to this materialistic and superficial lady of high society.  

Both Kathleen Burns and Laura Hill show their versatility and theatrical expertise with strong portrayals of six and five characters apiece. Each brings a unique take to their characters and a physical energy that causes much hilarity throughout the performance.

In her professional theatre debut, thirteen year old Rosa Garcia Knight brings a lovely characterisation of Little Mary. Connecting intuitively with her fellow actors and maintaining an impressive New York accent, Knight performs well beyond her years. 

Georgia Kate Heard, Donna Brookbanks, Juliet Reynolds-Midgley and Darien Takle all shine in their respective roles. As a cast, the nine women are stellar and their energy is infectious. 

Set designer Julian Southgate uses the space well and has created a seamlessly interchangeable set. Alluding to a dark New York skyline, Southgate’s grey walls swivel open and shut, quickly transporting audience members into the wealthy world of 1940s New York. The Reno set, which speaks of rural open spaces and new beginnings, provides an effective and sharp contrast to the women’s self-absorbed and enclosed lives of gossip and deceit. 

Costume designers and creators Pauline Laws and Pam Jones have produced a visual feast with their spectacular array of high-fashion costumes. The attention to detail is remarkable – jewellery, hats and handbags not only speak to the period but also the individual personality of each character – and lavish adornments and tight-fitting costumes lend extra comical elements. 

Lest this sound like a women-only affair, men should not be deterred. This is a play for both sexes and all ages. Everyone can benefit from Boothe Luce’s cleverly crafted one-liners and sharp insights into the unpredictable minds of women.

For its energy and sparkle alone, The Women is a must-see.


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Quality female actors exercise their ample talents

Review by Erin Harrington 24th Mar 2013

The Women, written in the mid 1930s by the formidable Clare Boothe Luce, is a witty and keenly observed comedy about the private lives of upper class New York women.

Director Ross Gumbley has shifted the action of The Women from the Depression to the late 40s and early 50s, and the way that these “Park Avenue princesses” swan through their lives with scant regard for the financial and social troubles of the lower classes suits the post-war setting well. Some of the language is certainly dated, but the comedy is fresh and sharp, and the concerns of the women are as relevant today as they were 80 years ago.  

The set-up is simple: wealthy wife and mother Mary discovers – through the machinations of her fair-weather friend Sylvia – that her husband has been having an affair with a beautiful but predatory girl who works behind the perfume counter at Saks. The story follows Mary as she tries to reconcile this affair with her values and ambitions, and as she and her friends laugh, bitch, gossip and chain-smoke their way through New York high society. The moral, perhaps, is that the best and the worst thing a woman can have is a female friend. 

The acerbic script offers the nine actresses – Amy Straker, Georgia Kate Heard, Eilish Moran, Rosa Garcia-Knight, Donna Brookbanks, Laura Hill, Juliet Reynolds-Midgley, Darien Takle and Kathleen Burns – ample room to exercise their talents, and it is obvious that they are having a great deal of fun.

The 27 characters include doting wives and divorcees, self-made women and social climbers, mothers and daughters, servants and mistresses. Their characterisations range from conservative, simmering restraint to broad and bawdy caricature.  

It is clear that this production has been like Christmas to costume designers Pam Jones and Pauline Laws, whose gorgeous hats, sumptuous dresses and outlandish handbags are characters in their own right. My companion and I left the theatre with a good case of frock envy and a smouldering desire for low heeled shoes. 

The action occurs in places such as dressing rooms, bathrooms, beauty parlours, and living rooms. Such domestic settings give the sense of private spaces where women can be women without existing for the benefit of men. Julian Southgate’s modernist set draws from a more abstract palette than many of the costumes, and hints at a lavish, upscale apartment.  

Sean Hawkins’ lovely sound design draws heavily from the hits of the time, and Giles Tanner’s lighting adds subtle texture to the largely flat set. 

Gumbley’s director’s note suggests that when the play debuted in 1936, its subject matter and all-female cast may have been seen as a feminist statement, and perhaps so. Certainly, a play with an all-female cast is still unusual today.

There is such an overwhelming supply of compelling stories about men, and rewarding and challenging roles for male actors, that seeing something so woman-centric is like slaking a thirst. Hopefully in 2013 women’s plays such as this can be seen as stories for people, rather than what Gumbley terms as a “theatrical oddity”, and I hope the scheduling of this deeply satisfying all-female comedy can act as encouragement for more lady-centric scripts.

There’s clearly no dearth of quality female actors.


Editor March 24th, 2013

Me too. Embarrassed. Fixed now. 

Erin Harrington March 24th, 2013

Clearly I can't count. Eight actors should read nine - apologies. Too overhwhelmed with frock love, perhaps?

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