Tiptree: No-one Else’s Damn Secret But My Own

Rowe’s fluid writing fleets through glimpses of an extraordinary life

Written and performed by Jenny Rowe
Directed by Nicola Haydn

James Tiptree Jr was the pseudonym used by the American science fiction author Alice B Sheldon. For years this persona fitted in with the male-dominated SF world; where ‘what if … ‘ was the norm, yet including women in those worlds was not.

An actor who hooks our attention and holds it in her hands for an hour, Rowe’s a great storyteller and master of the pause where it’s most effective. Her performance is pacy and upbeat, sometimes very funny, as she transforms into the 70+ Tiptree with ageing makeup and a cigarette-roughened patrician Hepburn drawl; laconic, ironic and wry.

Poking fun at the society she came from and lived through, Alice was always a little at odds, a little bit off. An American in Africa, a girl needing protecting but not being given a gun to do it herself, a bisexual woman in a conservative world of debutantes and finishing schools, a woman in a series of men’s worlds, perhaps none more conservative than the world of American SF.

We know the horrible truth from the start, that this is Tiptree’s last hour before she joins her husband. Rowe’s fluid writing fleets through glimpses of an extraordinary life in that universal solo show agreement between performer and audience – the performer is alone, but talking to us. Whoever we are. And we’re fine with that; we’ve done this before.


Philippa Hammond
Sussex Playwrights Reviews