Study Guide

Fay Weldon

by Franklin Birkinshaw

Fay Weldon Essay - Critical Essays

Fay Weldon Drama Analysis

Fay Weldon’s drama is notable more for its political content than for formal innovations. Her plays focus on women characters and their lives. They are feminist in that they explore issues that concern women and the ways that women communicate with other women and with men; however, despite raising awareness of women’s problems, they do not suggest major political change and, in fact, usually affirm the status quo. For example, one of Weldon’s major themes is the sexual politics of marriage, yet she repeatedly reaffirms that institution, ending her plays with marriage or with couples reunited after solving their problems. So while Weldon’s work contains feminist content, it is not politically radical.

Weldon’s drama contains humorous situations and dialogue, which make the plays enjoyable and the content palatable to a wide audience. Her characters speak in realistic, non-stylized language. Many plays contain scenes in which the dialogue or action concerns the ability of the characters to communicate; the words themselves become subject matter for the plays. The plays do not require elaborate sets, allowing the attention to focus on the interactions between the characters.

Permanance

Permanance was Weldon’s contribution to a series of short plays by various playwrights performed and published together under the title Mixed Doubles: An Entertainment on Marriage. Weldon was the only female playwright of the nine who wrote for the production, simultaneously pointing to the barriers to women’s success as playwrights and to the mainstream quality of Weldon’s work in that her play does not stand out politically in the middle of a production written mainly by male playwrights.

The sequence begins with a play about a bride and groom and ends with one about an elderly couple contemplating headstones in a cemetary; Weldon’s play, in the middle, presents a forty-year-old man and woman vacationing for the first time without their only child. The transition to the next stage of life offers an opportunity to explore what middle age means for men and women and what the sexes want from marriage.

Throughout the play, the characters sit in a tent. The tent, which they have vacationed in together for many years, serves as a symbol for their marriage thus far. The couple’s ability to communicate is a crucial theme. Although the husband seems cold at first, not wanting to stop reading to have a conversation and being unsympathetic about his wife’s wasp sting and broken glasses, by the end he is the one who affirms the importance of the marriage. At the end of the play, he suggests a villa in Italy for their next vacation; their marriage will change to meet the needs of both.

Action Replay

Action Replay borrows a technique from sports-casting—the replay. However, as the scenes are replayed, lines are changed and the outcomes differ in the various versions. In one scene, the characters discuss whether what happens to them is fate or the result of turns their conversations...

(The entire section is 1266 words.)