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Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi


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AT: Dead Fish A: Pam Gems Pf: Edinburgh, 1976 Pb: 1977 G: Trag. in 2 acts S: Bed-sittingroom, British city, 1970s C: 4fDusa Gilpin, in her late twenties, mother of two small children, has separated from her husband and comes to stay with Fish, only to discover that Vi (Violet), a teenage anorexic, has moved into the flat Fish shares with Stas. Stas (Anastasia) is a physiotherapist working with brain-damaged children, who, in order to get enough money to study for a Ph.D. in Marine Biology, works as a glamorous call girl in the evenings. Fish, from a well-to-do background but now a socialist, has broken up with her boyfriend Alan. While an ambulance is fetched for the now very weak Vi, and Dusa negotiates with her husband over the return of her children, Alan phones to say that he has just married his new woman, who threatened suicide if they could not be together. Discovering that her husband has taken the children to South America, Dusa has a hysterical attack. Fish spends the night spying on Alan making love to his woman. Some time later, Alan, who still sees Fish, is to be a father. Dusa, learning that her children are being sent home, goes to the airport with Stas and Vi to fetch them. When they return, they find Fish, on her birthday, has committed suicide.

AT: Dead Fish A: Pam Gems Pf: Edinburgh, 1976 Pb: 1977 G: Trag. in 2 acts S: Bed-sittingroom, British city, 1970s C: 4f

Pam Gems was one of the new wave of women playwrights, who, despite the miserable history of women gaining access to the theatre, now became successful with a wide range of plays on women's issues. With great honesty, which drew criticism from some feminists for its negative portrayal, this piece showed how, despite the new sense of empowerment enjoyed by women, they remained vulnerable in contemporary society, summed up by the final words of Fish's suicide note: ‘What are we to do?’

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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