Fair Intellectuals

Mar 3 2015 | By More

Lucy Porter’s witty comedy returns

Something of a sleeper hit at last year’s Edinburgh fringe where it sold out in the Assembly Rooms, The Fair Intellectual Club returns for a two night stay at the Assembly Roxy.

The play is based on the true story of three Edinburgh girls who formed the titular club in 1717. They recruited other young ladies aged between 15 and 19 with a view to discovering “what we might attain unto if we were as industrious to cultivate our minds as we are to adorn our bodies.”

The current tour: Photo  Eoin Carey

The current tour: Photo Eoin Carey

Lucy Porter has used original manuscripts and records to tell the story of  the club whose members met in secret to study literature, science and philosophy. The only grounds for leaving the club were marriage or death and the Fair Intellectuals took an oath to preserve the absolute secrecy of their organisation.

This might have been the time of the Scottish Enlightenment but when they were betrayed by one of their own number, her sisters discovered that their male contemporaries were not as enlightened towards female emancipation as they might have been, and the remaining members were exposed to scandal, censure and ruin.

Here is a review from the run at the Assembly Rooms at the fringe. This tour, produced with the help of Stellar Quines, reunites director Marilyn Imrie with original cast: Caroline Deyga, Jessica Hardwick and Samara MacLaren.

The Fair Intellectual Club

✭✭✭✭✩    Witty hit

The Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh Fringe 2014

Lucy Porter’s clever and witty script finds a trio of bright young Edinburgh girls setting up a club for young, unmarried girls in 1717. Porter bases her story on real events, but brings a comedian’s sense of timing to her telling of a secret society, to allow them to cultivate their minds rather than adorn their bodies, echoing the clubs set up by their brothers and fathers at the time, the dawn of the Scottish Enlightenment.

The Fair Intellectual Club membership’s is nine – representing the nine Muses, with the club’s member each taking the name of a Muse. With only the three actresses on stage, the audience is brought judiciously into play to act as foils to these prime movers: Samara MacLaren’s pernickety Polyhymnia, the pillar of the society, keeping the minutes and writing the rules; Caroline Deyga’s beauty Thalia, less inclined to the intellectual side; and Jessica Hardwick’s driven, mathematical genius Clio.

Strong performances allow the three characters to develop over the club’s rise and demise. Marilyn Imrie’s precise direction ensures clarity and great use of a very tight space. Porter’s script is a constant delight, drawing in contemporary cultural references with impunity, making audacious references to the names of those living and providing fascinating commentary on historical events – while making a strong and pertinent point about women and the perception of women in society. Great stuff.



The Fair Intellectual Club
Assembly Roxy 2 Roxburgh Place, EH8 9SU
Tuesday 3-Wednesday 4 March 2015
Daily, 7.30pm.
Details and tickets from: Asembly Roxy Website.

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  1. The Fair Intellectual Club : All Edinburgh Theatre.com | Aug 16 2017