Mrs Robinson – the woman who seduced The Graduate and became a legend in her own leopard print – remains one of cinema’s iconic figures half a century after she hit the screens.
Fiona Coffey explores her own fascination with the woman in A Touch of Mrs Robinson, a new musical cabaret featuring dashing musicians, 60s pop and a surprisingly-inspirational message from cinema’s greatest cougar.
The show is at the Komedia as part of the Brighton Fringe on Thursday, May 11. The audience is most definitely encouraged to come along in leopard print to catch the spirit of the whole thing.
“The leopard print is quite talismanic,” Fiona says. “There is the predator in her. She combines both female and male features. She is deeply involved with men and is very feminine, but on the other hand, she goes after what she wants and she nabs it! I will be talking about a few of her seduction tips!
“The theme of the show is about sex and relationships, but it is certainly not a blue show at all. It is actually very warm and friendly. It’s about a transgressive subject! But it is all treated in a very warm way! Mrs Robinson is someone who gets such a strong reaction from both men and women. Women might think she is sexy and cool, and the men might think she is great but be terrified of her, and she is still a very potent figure even though it is now 50 years since the film.
“She represents somebody in mid-life who does something incredibly transgressive in seducing this 21-year-old geeky boy. Something is up in suburbia! There is something incredibly naughty about her, but actually I discovered there is a San Francisco society dedicated to her. She started to become a role model!
“As a woman myself in mid-life, even though I am happily married, I found myself fascinated with her. I just wanted to delve into her, into her character and her marriage and her past and all about it. She has become a universal story, and I just wanted to try to navigate how she lives. There is also an element of vintage about her. The story is her life through the 50s and into the 60s, and it also mirrors what happens in music and culture, the way it broke through in the 60s… though there is also a contemporary feel to the show.
“She represents everybody wondering ‘What if I do something really naughty’ and wondering ‘Is it OK to do something really naughty?’ She is almost pictured as a villain but at the same time there is something pretty cool about her.
“In the book and the film we don’t even know her first name, but I have tried to do some historical digging. I try to imagine her as a college girl. I have thought about why she became the woman she does, what does it take for a woman in mid-life to do something really naughty and also what happens next. In the film, Ben and Elaine drive off into the sunset. But what happens to Mrs Robinson? I try to imagine…
“I just try to imagine what must have been her motivation in bringing such a car crash into her life!”
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