About Maria Montessori, they've already said she was ahead of her time - she was the first woman to graduate from the La Sapienza Medical School, at the University of Rome. She was introduced to a packed audience at New York's famed Carnegie Hall as “the greatest woman in the world”. And for the last two decades, her portrait features on the Italian 200 lire coin and the 1000 lire bill. The Greatest Woman in the World, written by the WA playwright John Bishop and directed by Jenny Davis, shows us all of these biographical nuggets in Montessori’s life, but goes further. After watching the show, the audience can conclude that, no matter how important she and her innovative educational method was, she was a woman with much in common with many others: she had fights with her parents to get what she wanted, she fell in love with the wrong man, she lost many friends because they didn't understand her and she did what was necessary to guarantee her son’s happiness.
After a comprehensive research, John Bishop seems to know everything about Maria Montessori. However, knowing too much about one specific subject or character can be dangerous in Theatre, because the playwright sometimes can lose clarity about what is really important, and what can be left behind. In The Greatest Woman in the World, Bishop does a very good job, but still could have made the play even better if he had left out two or three scenes. For example, some references to Montessori’s friends and enemies may be appropriate in her biography, but are not that important in a play. On the other hand, Bishop chose well in starting the play with a scene that pictures the moment in which Montessori’s son asks his mother why she abandoned him.
I've seen more than a few biography plays and in most of them the playwright generally chooses to use an interview to tell the audience the story. Bishop has proved to me that there is always a new and a better way to transport a biography onto the stage. The idea of splitting the acts in four places (the house in Holland where Maria died in 1952, her parent's house, the University of Rome and the schools in which she developed her method) helps the audience to following the story more closely. The split acts also helped the director, Jenny Davis, who does a very good job and, very appropriately, adds a clearly felt female touch here and there.
The Agelink Theatre actors work harmoniously together. As the young Maria Montessori, Rebecca Davis is almost all the time on the stage. It's not an easy job, but she does well. Jenny McNae portrays the older Maria Montessori and, although the acting could have been somewhat less emotional, she is also convincing. Vic Hawkins and Irene Jarzabek are sober and emotive in the correct time as Maria’s parents. Jo Morris as Nina, Maria’s best friend, is somewhat insecure, and Benji D'Addario could be a little more assertive when he is playing Giuseppe Montesano, the wrong man for whom Maria falls in love. The same problem affects Thomas Papathanassiou, who plays Maria's son. A more assertive performance is made by Igor Sas, whose role is Guido Baccelli, Maria's teacher.
The Greatest Woman in the World is not a revolutionary play. But it tells us, in a beautiful and easy way, why Maria Montessori’s life and legacy was and still is so important all over the world.
Agelink Theatre proudly presents
The Greatest Woman in the World
by John Bishop
Venue: Subiaco Arts Centre, 180 Hamersley Rd, Subiaco
Season: Sat 3, 10, 17 Nov @ 2pm & 7.30pm; Mon 5 & 12 Nov @ 6.30pm,Tues 6 & 13 Nov @ 6.30pm; Wed- Fri 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, & 16 Nov @ 7.30pm; Thurs 8 & 15 Nov @ 11.00am
Tickets: Concession/Groups: $22; Standard $26; Child U/18:$15; Family: (2 Adults 2 children) $77; School Groups: 10+ (get 1 free ticket when you book 10 or more) $13
Duration: Approx 2 hours (including 20 minute interval)
Bookings: BOCS Ticketing (08) 9484 1133 or www.bocsticketing.com.au or at any BOCS outlet (fees may apply)