Tender story reaches beyond lesbian issues to universal love and loss
Gertrude Stein and a Companion takes the audience back to the Paris of Hemingway where major artists gathered
There are so many current and urgent concerns for SA women, such as the corrective rape and other brutalisations of lesbians in the townships. So why bother watching an old-school play about two, white, older lesbians from back in the day? Gertrude Stein and a Companion is a period piece and therefore must be true to a specific time — one of the most extraordinary eras for artists. Stein and her life partner and secretary Alice B Toklas arrived in the Paris of 1903 which writer Ernest Hemingway described as “a moveable feast”. Paris was a magnet for some of the world’s major creatives — painters, composers, dancers and writers. The couple befriended and collected many experimental works of the time, particularly Picasso, Matisse and Braque. Stein and Toklas survived two world wars, the German occupation of France and the Great Depression. Win Wells’s play doesn’t draw attention to the couple’s sexual orientation, women’s suffrage, refugee status, migrancy or the risk Jews faced livi...