Three Women must have been the best kept secret in town. Even
though the play had a respectable audience at the Central
Bank Auditorium, I cant help but think patrons would
have had been lining up for blocks if they had any inkling
about just how powerfully entertaining that play was.
Two weeks later, Im still haunted by the closing show
on September 14. For me, thats always an indication
that I have experienced an extraordinary piece of art.
Outwardly, Three Women is a play that is as simple as its
title. Three superb actors, Eunice Alleyne, Belinda Barnes
and Anne-Louise Tam, convey the emotional angst of three-middle
Their names alone tell a story: Grace, a gracious widow,
had once found refuge in her marriage. While her husband
was alive, he could protect her from everythingincluding
the painful memories of being raped by a cousin. Now
Grace has to face her feelings alone.
Joy, an artist, is a hopeless romantic who still dreams
of having the perfect husband. She is a dougla who embraces
her Indian roots and scorns her African roots. Growing up,
she fantasised about being white and British. Even a
glamorous life as a flight attendant cant hide Joyces
need for a lasting relationship. She hopes to find happiness
in Lars, a Danish man she met online.
The most haunting character in the play is Carol, who doesnt
even reveal her name until deep into her monologue. Her secret
is an abusive relationship.
Three Women is a play that depends on strong acting.
There are no gimmicks. The power of the play comes from developing
the characters and their conflicts. Director Mervyn de
Goeas does an admirable job of nurturing finely nuanced performances
from three gifted actors capable of creating mesmerising
performances on any stage.
Tension mounts as each womans story unravels and the
audience realises that the need for these friends to express
their innermost feelings to each other might be their only
salvation. There is something sad and frightening about living
alone with all ones feelings bottled up inside. These
three women convey the perils of bottled-up emotions with
It takes unashamed courage to bank an entire performance on
three actresses and a director. Of course it helps to
have a well-written script that just happens to be written
by the actresses themselves.
Careful attention seems to have been paid to important details
so that nothing competed with the actors performances. The
set was highly effective. Each actors space was defined
by a small corner of a stark room. For Grace, there
was a chair, a phone and a family picture; for Joy, a vanity
and an easel. Carols space was basically empty. For
the most part, she sat curled up on a simple chair.
The women moved from the stark simplicity of their homes to
a table in a restaurant that suggested a superficial opulence.
The restaurant served as a façade for the womens
empty lives. It loomed large, a haunting image in the
shadows, even when the women returned to their own private
pain in their homes.
For most of the play, the women wore only white. White
costumes created the image of each woman as an empty canvas
waiting to be painted. Those costumes suggested an inner
purity. Sometimes they created the illusion of apparitions
nurturing ghostly reminders of happiness lost.
In the end, the women entered the restaurant with a splash
of colour. They dressed in outfits that defined themespecially
Joy who wore a colourful savaar camiz that suggested she was
still stuck in the past with her Indian identity. Most
striking was Carols desperately daring outfitintricate,
scarlet lace with a plunging neckline.
Carols final monologue in which she begs her husband
to look at her is downright chilling. It is an unforgettable
scene. I have always admired Belinda Barnes directing
talents, and it was a real treat to see her act.
If a successful play can be measured by its ability to peel
away layers of emotion to expose raw nerves that connect us
all, then Three Women hit the mark. You dont have to
be a middle-aged woman and you dont have to share these
womens individual stories to identify with the hidden
agony these characters share. Three Women is deep, yet there
is much humour as well. The play is chockfull of issues
What exactly are friends for if not to share our deepest secrets?
Is there any hope for happiness if we cant share our
pain with someone? Is it ever possible to escape from
hurt so deep that we fear expressing it? Do we really
want to let go of pain?
Three Women is about the masks we all wear. Its about
discovering oneself and the deep-seated need we all have to
put the past to rest. Its about taking chances and moving
on. Its about having the courage to be and feel
and see what life is all about.
Hopefully, Three Women will be staged again soon. If you get
a chance to see this play, dont miss it. Its a
rare opportunity to gaze into a very revealing mirror.