Andy Warhol’s muse and his would-be assassin collide in an unconventional dark comedy about fame, failure and feminism heading for The Latest, 14-17 Manchester Street, Brighton on October 2-3.
Femme Fatale, written by Polly Wiseman and directed by Nathan Evans, comes from Lewes-based Fireraisers, a female-led company promising “extraordinary theatre in unexpected places”.
The piece imagines a meeting between activist Valerie Solanas – famously the woman who shot Warhol – and singer Nico.
It asks what might have happened if two female visionaries with very different methods had locked horns.
With women’s ownership of their stories, their image and their bodies still firmly on the news agenda, Femme Fatale draws parallels between 60s feminism and today and throws into relief how much further there is to go, says writer Polly.
The piece takes us back to 1968 New York.
Nico, singer with The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol’s Superstar, waits to shoot his latest movie when her Chelsea Hotel room is invaded by radical feminist Valerie Solanas.
Valerie wants the celebrity’s help to spread her message of female revolution, but Nico only craves drugs to insulate her from her pain.
A darkly comic battle begins, between two iron-willed opponents who could change their futures if only they could become allies…
As Polly says, Valerie Solanas was a radical feminist, best known for writing the SCUM Manifesto (Society for Cutting Up Men) and attempting to murder Andy Warhol.
“I am always looking for strong female characters and these characters are both. And both of them had a very dark sense of humour.
“Solanas was a this ‘feminazi’ crazy woman, someone who takes feminism to an extreme. She was a second-wave feminist and wrote this manifesto. To me, it seems a parody and that’s what I thought when I read it, and I think she originally thought it was a parody, but she had a pretty hard life and I think she ended up believing it. She went a bit crazy and shot Andy Warhol. She was wanting to make a point.
“He apparently died on the operating table and had to be brought back. Afterwards he was never a very well man. She did quite a lot of damage. Of course, I can’t in any way condone what she did. That’s something nobody should do. But what she was saying about the way society disadvantages women – or in fact anyone who was not a white straight male – has got relevance today. The show draws resonances between 1967-68 and now and goes into what has changed and what hasn’t changed. It’s a call to action to people to make that change… without shooting anyone! Hopefully it is entertaining above all, but if people talk about it in the bar afterwards then that is good.
“I’m bored to death by likeable female characters – which is why I wanted to write about Teutonic junkie Nico and ‘crazed feminazi’ Valerie Solanas.
“Both revolutionaries, in their different ways, their legacies have been all but ignored in favour of more compliant and prettily-packaged women. But thirty years after they both died, their work continues to inspire many artists and activists. As hilarious as they were uncompromising, their views on men, music, fame and feminism are outrageous and deadpan, tender and truculent.”