The Trial of Olympe de Gouges
by Alex Cathcart
Staged at The Fort Theatre, Bishopbriggs, Glasgow
Produced & Directed by Tony McCaffery
Music from Blochestra
Is Terror justified in establishing a new state? Is Democracy allowable? Are people equal? Are women ill-equipped for governing? Are women really the power behind the throne? Should women have Rights enshrined in law?
This new play The Trial of Olympe de Gouges looks at these still relevant questions as Olympe de Gouges – courtesan, philosopher, playwright, social climber and eccentric - takes on the chilling self-named dictator: Maximillian Robespierre.
Olympe de Gouges was clearly a woman ahead of her time and it was her radical Declaration of the Rights of Women that brought her to face 'trial'. In her publication de Gouges ironically exposed the failure of the French Revolution, which had been devoted to gender equality. In Revolutionary France speaking out not only for equality and democracy but the Rights of Women was seen as an attack on the governing regime and ultimately resulted in a show trial and Madame Guillotine.
The verdict of her trial rested upon whether she was or was not pregnant; here the architect of The Terror, Robespierre, the misogynist supreme and vain publisher of his own Declaration of the Rights of Man, intervened.
In the play we watch as she pleads clemency because of pregnancy, but, despite medical examination, this is refused. At the guillotine she calls upon the future generations of women to avenge her death.
This play portrays issues that now, several hundred years later, are not entirely resolved.