Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi

by Pam Gems

9 July – 3 August 2013

“My loves, what are we to do? We won't do as they want any more, and they hate it. What are we to do?”

The first full professional production in more than 35 years


Commemorating the centenary year of the death of suffragette martyr Emily Wilding Davison, the first full professional production in more than 35 years of Pam Gems’ feminist classic Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi.

Four determinedly ‘liberated’ – and very different – women ricochet around a tiny shared flat, while trying to pull together the shattered strands of their lives: Dusa is struggling to regain her children from their father, Fish is losing her lover to another woman, Stas is on the game to finance the course she wants to study at university, while Vi steadfastly refuses to eat….

A bitingly sardonic modern classic, widely regarded as an historic icon of early feminism, Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi was first seen at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1976 under the title Dead Fish, Michael Codron transferred the play to the West End under its new title where it enjoyed a huge success and established Pam Gems as a major new voice in British theatre.

About The Playwright Pam Gems

Playwright Pam Gems (1925–2011) turned to playwriting after bringing up four children. Closely involved with the Women’s Theatre Group at the Almost Free Theatre, she went on to enjoy a long association with the Royal Shakespeare Company, from Queen Christina (1977) and Piaf (1978) to Camille (1984), The Danton Affair (1986) and The Blue Angel (1991). Later plays included Stanley (premiered at the National Theatre, starring Antony Sher, which won both the Evening Standard Award and the Olivier Award for Best New Play, and also nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play) and Marlene (nominated for a Tony Award). She also was a prolific adapter of the works of many of the great European playwrights including Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya (Hampstead Theatre), The Cherry Orchard (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield) Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea (Almeida Theatre) and Lorca’s Yerma (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester).

About The Director Helen Eastman

Director Helen Eastman returns to the Finborough Theatre where she directed The Monument, Fair (and its subsequent National Tour and West End run at Trafalgar Studios), The Gabriels and three productions from live poetry company, Live Canon. Trained as a director at LAMDA after graduating from Oxford University. Theatre includes Circus Etc (The De La Warr Pavillion), Wild Raspberries (Citizens Theatre, Glasgow), Bug Off (OTC Dublin and tour), Cure at Troy (Delphi International Festival and Tour), Bridgetower (Hackney Empire and Tour), Dido and Aeneas (National Tour for English Touring Opera), Speakout (Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch for English Touring Opera), Splat (Greenwich Theatre), Felt Effects (Theatre503), Hansel and Gretel (Cork Opera House), The Sweet Science of Bruising (National Theatre Studio), Cloudcuckooland, nominated for a Total Theatre Award (National Tour), Agamemnon (Cambridge Arts), Pots and Plays (site specific at Ashmolean Museum), Dear Father Christmas, Where’s Father Christmas, Bicycle Boy (Oxford Playhouse). Helen is Artistic Director of Live Canon, for whom she has created theatre and site specific shows, installations and digital performances throughout the UK. She was one of twelve women invited to create work in the Phenomenal People series at the Festival Hall. She is Associate Artist of Oxford University’s APGRD. She is also a playwright and librettist and has written plays and operas for Oxford Playhouse, The Royal Society, Sheffield Crucible, Queens Hornchurch, Greenwich Theatre, Chester Open Air Season, ETO and the Young Vic.

About Jagged Fence

Jagged Fence returns to the Finborough Theatre where they have produced two sold out critically acclaimed productions – Ours by T.W. Robertson (2007) and Love on the Dole (2010). Founded in 2006 by Artistic Director Emily Dobbs, Jagged Fence is a bold, ambitious and innovative UK based theatre company with a diverse artistic policy that includes new writing, original adaptations and contemporary reappraisals of European, British and American classics. Jagged Fence have established a reputation for fresh, fearless theatre and artistic excellence.

The Press on Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi


“It will almost certainly drive men out of the theatre.” Robert Tanitch, Mature Times

“By now it’s no secret that the Finborough has a habit of digging out long-forgotten plays and turning them into near perfect productions. Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi is the latest play to be resurrected, and what a great choice!” Everything Theatre

“A little wormhole in time has been opened at the Finborough, so we can drop in on messy gender relations in the mid ’70s. The mode of transport is Pam Gems’s breakout play of 1975...Four women who dared step out of line: they are a moving challenge from history to the botox conformism of today.” Patrick Marmion, Time Out

“Some plays have such historic significance that it is surprising that they are not revived more often. I blame the obsession with novelty that characterises our culture. So it’s great to see this venue, under its ever-enterprising supremo Neil McPherson, stepping up to the plate and offering us the late Pam Gems’s 1976 feminist classic, Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi... An intriguing study of female friendship, free of sentimentality or hectoring, and offering its insights with wit and economy." Aleks Sierz, The Arts Desk

“The Finborough has a well-deserved reputation for unearthing lost classics, and this 1976 play by Pam Gems — a picture of female friendship, laced with politics — is worth reviving.” Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard

“It’s so great to see this play on the stage, where it belongs, and not confined to the drama history books.” Aleks Sierz, The Arts Desk

“Pam Gems’ feminist classic Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi has held up remarkably well. As an exploration of female social roles and personal friendships, it’s interesting to see what has moved on, what hasn’t and what may never.... In a world where commentators still rate sportswomen by their looks and senators have to speak for nearly 11 hours to contest anti-abortion bills, its anger feels as relevant as ever” Honour Bayes, The Stage

“Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi may be almost 40 years old, but the struggle it depicts continues: women who are exploring sisterhood, transforming their sexual relationships with men, wrestling with what it means to be a mother, and confronting the possibility that a price might be exacted for their independence. If that sounds dry, it's not. There are moments of delirious joy and laughter. Maybe it's not a great play, but it's a truthful and fearless one.” Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

“Another great period show at the Finborough. Head to Earl’s Court before the show sells out!” Everything Theatre

“The writing is spiky, contrary, funny, militant, quirky, depressing and exhilarating. It throbs with real life, and ends on a provocative cry of pain.” Aleks Sierz, The Arts Desk

“Gems was never the most elegant writer; in fact, she was gloriously messy. But she always wrote straight from the heart, and knew how to portray women's inner lives.” Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

“Sophie Scott , who really shines in a very strong cast.” Phillip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“Scott’s tremendous acting, particularly on hearing news that her children have been taken by her husband, is quite the showstopper.” Jemma Anderson, A Younger Theatre

“Sophie Scott’s agonised Dusa. There’s a moment of heart-stopping hyperventilating that almost had me dialing 999.” Aleks Sierz, The Arts Desk

“Olivia Poulet’s relentlessly upbeat Fish is completely convincing,” Aleks Sierz, The Arts Desk

“Olivia Poulet lends a nice mix of authority and haunted edginess.” Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard

“A beautiful, funny, natural performance from Emily Dobbs.” Lauren Mooney, Exeunt

“Helen Eastman's piquant, well-acted and surprisingly tuneful revival at the Finborough (staged to commemorate the centenary year of the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison)...proves...a worthy addition to the Finborough's reliable repertoire of revivals.” Alex Ramon, One Stop Arts

“Helen Eastman’s delicately balanced production manages the dynamics of the four eponymous friends well. Emily Dobbs’ restrained performance as rational Stas and Sophie Scott’s explosive Dusa each has powerful convictions, in utterly opposite ways. Olivia Poulet and Helena Johnson give quietly compelling performances as Fish and Vi.” Honour Bayes, The Stage

“This is a super play with a bitter ending getting a magnificent production. Neil McPherson would be top of my shortlist for the candidates to replace Nicholas Hytner as Artistic Director at the National Theatre. Who else has such a consistently reliable eye for a good but neglected play and the ability to give it a great production?” Lizzie Loveridge, Curtain Up

The Press on Director Helen Eastman

Pick of the Fringe – The Sunday Times on The Cure at Troy

★★★★★ "A must see. ....Superbly acted and stylishly staged.” Three Weeks on The Cure at Troy

“Terrific and topical…smart and very entertaining” The Observer on Cloudcuckooland

“Serious fun… Multi-talented performers …. an exciting, carnival atmosphere” Three Weeks on Cloudcuckooland

“Hugely enjoyable” The Guardian on Cloudcuckooland

“A revelatory experience” The Guardian on Agamemnon

“An exhilarating extravaganza” The Guardian on Dido and Aeneas

“A compelling night’s drama” The Times on Bridgetower

And for Fair at the Finborough Theatre –

★★★★ Play of the Week in WhatsOnStage

Time Out Critics' Choice 
“Superbly directed by Helen Eastman… an evening that’s as near to bliss as you can get”. Alekz Sierz, The Stage

“Searing yet subtle.” Benjamin Davis,Time Out

“Small doesn’t automatically mean modest… A very good play for today.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

9 July – 3 August 2013

Tickets and Times

Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday 7:30pm
Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 3:00pm (from the second week of the run)
Sunday 3:00pm

Approximately 2 hours with one interval of 15 minutes