Becky Sharp never blushes. As the wily Becky and her gentle friend Amelia scale social ladders and hurdle the whims of fate, only one question matters: how do you get what you want in life? A bright dance hall pageant poking fun at all our pretenses, this new adaptation harnesses the frivolity of Thackerary’s novel while recasting its (anti) heroines as complex, vibrant women, delivering “a gift to actors and a good bag for its audience” (The New York Times). Kate Hamill (Sense and Sensibility) was recently named The Wall Street Journal’s Playwright of the Year 2017, and her athletic, quick-witted and distinctly unfussy retellings of great works of literature have been rapidly embraced with productions around the country.
Like so many of us, I’m in love with the classics and the universality of the stories they tell. But I have to say, it’s hard sometimes to see women constantly relegated to tertiary characters. So often, women are only playing the wives and the girlfriends and the prostitutes of the hero on his journey. I believe very deeply that women’s stories are universal stories, and that we can connect as deeply with a female protagonist as we can with a male protagonist.
The women of Vanity Fair are complex and very different people – but their approach to the patriarchal rules of their world is sometimes flawed, sometimes admirable, and altogether human. I was particularly interested in how Becky and Amelia are punished both for breaking the rules and for obeying the rules; for having ambition and for not having ambition; for having agency and for not having agency. The system is designed to keep them down, and the only way they can overcome it is to bond together. So in the end, this is also a story about deep female friendship.
This is one of the few stage adaptations that’s ever been done of Vanity Fair because it’s a grand and gorgeous novel on an epic scale – about 1600 pages – and it really requires a theatre that’s willing to take on those giant stories, that’s eager to examine how they’re still universal and why they still matter. Lucky for us, Shakespeare Theatre Company is one of those places.
All titles, artists and dates subject to change.