Abstract: Near the end of the 2008-9 school year, a group of four English students at McMaster University performed two scenes from Robert Wilson’s The Three Ladies of London before their peers and instructors. Although the students were initially leery of viewing the characters of Three Ladies as being more than personified embodiments of abstract principles, the process of humanizing them in performance offered a new appreciation of the complex psychological rhythms and moral ambiguities that exist within the play. By watching the scene unfold, students in the audience gradually came to view themselves as an extension of the performance, as occupying the role of London society. Through performance choices, the student performers created a tightly collaborative and reflective piece that challenged many of the group’s initial critical misgivings about the play.
Citation: Dell, Jessica, ‘Classroom Performance of Robert Wilson’s The Three Ladies of London: A Case Study ’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/JessicaDell.htm.
Abstract: The ethical dilemma that the play attempts to resolve is the competition between the female characters (Lucre, Conscience, and Love) for mastery over the behaviour and morals of Englishmen, and by so doing it initiates a battle of the sexes. But the terms of the debate make it clear that there can only be one eventual winner: the men. The text evaluates women morally by their sexual continence, but simultaneously it demonstrates that women can achieve power only through promiscuity. The inevitable result is that the women cannot win the battle of the sexes set up as the play's central psycho-sexual dilemma. The play lays a trap: Conscience and Love participate in a competition where success on one level means certain failure on another. Performance options (how these roles are gendered) will inevitably shape the ways an audience experiences the ethical dilemma, and interprets its gender politics.
Citation: Jowitt, Claire, ‘Performing Gender in Robert Wilson’s The Three Ladies of London’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/ClaireJowitt.htm.
Abstract: What is the purpose of modernizing, or even reviving at all, a play like Three Ladies of London? The play is a fascinating precursor or model for The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice, as well as a vital hinge between civic and liturgical drama on the one hand and commercial drama on the other. But it is also a period piece, specifically preoccupied with the London of the 1580s, and obviously of great potential to be dreadfully dull to a modern audience. I will engage this problem by discussing the sound, structure, and historical (or trans-historical) significance of the play's ‘fourteener’ verse, which I think is the most fundamental marker of difference any modern production and audience must deal with.
Citation: Lopez, Jeremy, ‘The Poetry and Prosody of Robert Wilson’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/JeremyLopez.htm.