“I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning”
From Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith
Zoë Wanamaker takes the lead role in Huge Whitemore’s 1971 play, Stevie. She is mesmerising to watch, puffing incessantly on a cigarette, eyes glinting mischievously as she takes the audience deep into the world of Stevie Smith, introducing them to Stevie’s incredible imagination and wit.
Stevie Smith (1902-1971) was a British poet and although she may have missed out on many of the great public accolades bestowed by the critics, she was one of the most original women poets of her time. In Hugh Whitemore’s play her life is told through poetry and dialogue.
The dialogue is sharp and the poetry full of wit and seriousness. And the play is punctuated with her disconcerting, but very funny, observations on life. Yet Stevie Smith lived what most people would regard, even by Victorian standards, an extremely mundane day-to-day life. She lived in the suburbs with her beloved Aunt, who she called the Lion Aunt, commuting to London for work. However, she escaped her middle-class existence through her vivid imagination, channelling it into her writing and poetry.
Zoë Wanamaker is fantastic as Stevie. She moves with incredible agility between Stevie’s funny highs and desolately black moods. Lynda Barton makes a brilliant Lion Aunt, the no-nonsense feminist from Hull who had no time for men and a whole list of other things too. Chris Larkin plays a variety of male roles, which help to fill in context about Stevie’s life, passions and fears, including the fiancé she rejects because ‘You expect me to behave in a certain way, to think a certain way, to lead a certain life. Well, I don’t think I can do it’. Going on to explain passionately and vehemently that “I’m cut out for friendship, not marriage”.
Stevie is currently showing at the Hampstead Theatre until 18th April 2015. Click here for more information and tickets: http://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/