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“The Good Women”: A heartfelt queer rom-com to add to your pride lineup

Warning: The following content contains spoilers.

As a creative and a lover of the performing arts, I was excited to find out about The Good Women a queer feminist play at The Cockpit Theatre. This show, produced by the talented trio of Faith McCune, Lena Liedl, and Sophie Marsden, has already had a run of success with its critically acclaimed premiere at VAULT Festival and a sold-out UK and Ireland tour. It’s now returning to London, perfectly timed to celebrate Pride Month.

The Good Women is a queer rom-com that tells the love story between Bette, a TV cooking show star, and Trudy, a housewife, set against the backdrop of the Swiss suffragette movement of the 1960s. Something that I didn’t know before going to watch this play was that Swiss women didn’t gain the right to vote until 1971 (huh?!), which made for a fascinating and poignant historical backdrop. The play is cited to be ‘inspired by a true story’, based on a Swiss cookbook and the two women who wrote it. This was once again, a total surprise to me so naturally I tried to research the crap out of it, unfortunately to no avail. If anyone knows who these incredible women are, please let us know because it would make one hell of a herstory article.

From left to right, Faith McCune, Sophie Marsdon and Lena Liedl. Photo: Jack Hodgson

As someone who is passionate about rom-coms (I’m currently on a mission to watch every rom-com ever made from 1912 to today – that’s a story for another day) and identifies as bisexual, a queer rom-com play is the epitome of a perfect evening for me. But even if you’re not as rom-com obsessed as I am, The Good Women is a great evening for any feminist.

Though a little nervous at the prospect of a two-person cast in an intimate setting, from the moment the play began, I was captivated. Bette’s subtle yet impactful performance beautifully contrasted with Trudy’s expressive and somewhat chaotic energy, creating an interesting dynamic and convincing relationship. Their chemistry was compelling, and I found myself deeply invested in their love story. The moments of genuine humour and sweetness throughout the play kept me engaged, and the well-written script was a testament to the talent of Sophie Marsden.

The play opens with Trudy waking up dishevelled and panicked while Bette’s cooking show plays on a screen. Their first meeting is a little awkward but in a very sweet and endearing way, with Trudy’s rambunctious nature clashing against Bette’s stand-offish demeanour – very much giving a grumpy/sunshine rom-com classic trope. As their relationship develops, they navigate the challenges of Trudy’s abusive marriage and Bette’s struggles within a male-dominated workplace, among other obstacles. One particularly memorable moment is Bette’s stand against her director, reminiscent of parts of the book Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.

Photo: Jack Hodgson

The historical context of 1960s Zurich, where women couldn’t work without their husband’s permission and were fighting for the right to vote, definitely adds depth to their personal struggles throughout. The play doesn’t shy away from tackling themes of inequality, freedom, love, and patriarchy, all while maintaining a heartfelt and humorous tone, which is typically not easy to do. I was particularly struck by the play’s exploration of what it means to be a “good woman,” a theme that resonated deeply with a fellow people pleaser and left me pondering long after the curtain fell.

I will admit there were a few pacing issues and some unresolved plot points, but I think my critique comes from a place of being really invested in the characters and wanting more from them. In saying this, if there was a bigger budget and a longer run-time to expand on parts, this would hit the big time in an instant. However, the current size of production creates a certain charm that allows for an emotional depth to shine through, which may lend itself to the small intimate setting. Despite wishing for a little more, the hopeful ending, with Trudy planning a future without her husband and Bette finding strength in their love, left me with a sense of optimism and empowerment.

Photo: Jack Hodgson

In an interview with Fringe Binge, Faith and Lena shared their extensive research process, which included recreating 1960s recipes and diving into Swiss queer magazines. Their dedication to authenticity is evident in every aspect of the play, from the vibrant set design to the historically accurate contextual backdrop. This commitment to detail brings the 20th century to life but also makes the story relevant to today’s audience.

Good Women Arts, the production company behind The Good Women was founded by two stars of the play Faith McCune and Lena Liedl, as well as Sophie Marsden during their time at East 15 Acting School. Their mission is to bring women’s voices to the stage, and they have certainly succeeded with this play. Their all-female creative team challenges the status quo in a male-dominated industry, making The Good Women a shining example of feminist theatre.

Lena, Sophie & Faith, @goodwomenarts on Instagram

As Pride Month continues, I highly recommend The Good Women as a fun evening out. At its core, it’s a heart-warming celebration of queer love, feminist history, and the power of women’s voices. Whether you’re a rom-com fanatic like me or simply a supporter of feminist and LGBTQ+ stories, “The Good Women” is a beautiful, funny, and heartfelt experience that you don’t want to miss.

Catch The Good Women at The Cockpit Theatre from June 5th to 15th. Tickets are available online – don’t miss out on this incredible show.

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