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Garry - White Bear Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

WRITTEN by Sophie Treadwell and directed by Graham Watts, tense psychological thriller Garry runs at the White Bear Theatre from June 4 to June 22, 2019.

Sophie Treadwell had a world-wide hit with the oft-revived and multi-award-winning Machinal. It appears on most lists of the greatest plays ever written. And yet only one of her scripts has ever been published and the introduction to that states she gave up writing for the stage in 1941 after a Broadway failure.

This couldn’t be further from the truth and paints a picture of a weak woman unable to cope with the strains of the theatre world in the mid-20th Century. In fact she was, as the title of one of the few books about her
recognises, “Broadway’s Bravest Woman.”

To set the record straight, Treadwell wrote five plays, a novel, and two teleplays (one of which was screened) after 1941. And she rarely returned to the Expressionist style for which she is famous. The vast majority of Treadwell’s plays remain unperformed including Garry, her penultimate work, written in 1954.

Now, exactly 65 years after she wrote it, Garry can at last be seen for the very first time. It is not re-discovered juvenilia but the work of an artist at the peak of her powers.

The play is set in 1954 in New York. An unemployed man is lured from a bar to the hotel room of a “prominent citizen” with the promise of a job. A sexual assault is attempted which has devasting consequences for newlyweds Wilma and Garry. When a reporter turns up looking for a scoop, events build to a shattering conclusion.

Treadwell unashamedly tackles themes of prostitution, homosexuality, sadomasochistic sex, and the role of women in the 1950’s. Her punchy dialogue retains the power to shock and she was a pioneer in creating strong and dominant female characters. Even today it’s difficult to imagine Garry being allowed a performance in certain parts of America.

So what caused such a gifted playwright to be ignored? She was that most loathed of beings – a woman with strong opinions and the tenacity to demand that she be heard. Sophie Treadwell was incredibly courageous. On a trip to Mexico during the revolution she tracked down and interviewed Pancho Villa; something General Pershing and a 10,000 strong American army had failed to achieve. When theatrical giant John Barrymore plagiarised one of scripts, she sued him – and won. She never once gave in throughout her life and refused to compromise, especially with the subject matter she wrote about.

Garry is directed by Graham Watts whose Offie nominated world premiere of Margaret Cavendish’s The Unnatural Tragedy (1662) received 5-star reviews at The White Bear in 2018. In a career spanning more than 30 years, his credits also include Nathan Field’s A Woman is a Weathercock (nominated for a “Time Out” Award), Much Ado About Nothing and King Lear in New York, Othello and The Comedy of Errors in Hamburg, Henry V in Brisbane, and nine outdoor Shakespeare productions in Alaska.

Casting has not yet been announced.

Tickets: £16, £12 concessions – available from the box office on 0333 012 4963 or online at www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk/.

Times: Tuesday to Saturday at 7pm; Sunday matinees at 4pm.