Viv Groskop reports in the Guardian about the current London production of Sylvia Plath's verse play 'Three Women':
"Most people consider the writer Sylvia Plath to have been a poet first (with the superlative Ariel), a novelist second (with the wrenching The Bell Jar), and that there her talents ended. The theatre director Robert Shaw begs to differ. His production of Plath's verse play, Three Women, has just opened in London - the first time it has been professionally staged. And Shaw believes the work shows Plath's brilliance as a dramatist."There is something magical about it that I have not tried to analyse too carefully," he says. "People respond to it and find things in this piece that they understand and relate to; things that perhaps Plath was able to express in a way no one else has.""
Apart from nursery rhymes, I believe that Sylvia Plath's poems were the first poems I ever read. I may have mentioned before that at the age of 5 I saw the book called 'Ariel' on a shelf at home and, recognising the name, took it down. Later, my father found me drawing pictures to go with the poems. He was somewhat concerned about my interest in the lines, "Daddy I had to kill you." :-)
When I studied 20th century American lit as part of my undergraduate degree, Plath was the only woman whose work was included in the course; and the professor still felt that she was second-rate. I was, of course, infuriated, since she was a goddess to me, a kind of literary version of James Dean. Am thus always delighted to read of public appreciation ...
"The play is a powerful expression of pregnancy and maternity, but Shaw does not feel it is simply a "women's piece". "It has a kind of universality," he says. "She expresses someone's internal life in the most extraordinary way." How people will respond to the play, meanwhile, remains to be seen. "It is a risk," admits Shaw, "But it's an important risk to take. What we see is Plath the dramatist.
It gives us an idea of what we missed and what we might have had if we had had her for longer. Six months after it was broadcast, she died. It gives us a strong idea of what might have happened if she'd had a chance to develop it." He pauses. "It's really quite tantalising.""