Plays by Inez Bensusan

The Apple

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

The Apple is a powerful indictment of inequality between the sexes and its economic consequences. It explores a family in which the grandfather has left his money to all his grandchildren, but it has been spent on the favoured son, Cyril, the ‘apple’ of his father’s eye, to establish his position in the world. Meanwhile his sister Ann acts as unpaid housekeeper and Helen works as a typist, about which Cyril is duly superior. When Helen is subjected to sexual advances at work from her father’s friend Nigel Dean, Helen determines to use her share of the money to go to Canada to make a better life. But Cyril has already made his claim for the money to buy the partnership which will allow him to marry. Where many of the AFL plays are propaganda pieces which use a comic mode to defeat anti-suffragist arguments, The Apple addresses larger grievances of women’s lives frustrated by lack of economic independence, the narrow options open to women in the workforce and the issue of sexual harassment. In its account of economic drudgery it has similarities to the work of Elizabeth Baker or Cicely Hamilton. It powerfully, and still unusually for its time, creates a heroine in Helen who gives unapologetic voice to her anger at the limitations imposed on her. The author juxtaposes her with her downtrodden, self-sacrificing sister, Ann, whose only access to money, is by pawning her possessions. It remains moving and resonant in its account of the frustration and oppressiveness of family structures in which Helen demands “a glimpse of life, a taste of the joy of living, a few pence in my pocket, my rights as an individual” but remains entrapped within a scenario, dictated by her boss, which alone seems to offer any chance of these. Inez Bensusan wrote three other plays, all unpublished: the duologue, Perfect Ladies (1909, now lost), Nobody’s Sweetheart, 1911 (produced at the Little Theatre) and The Prodigal Passes, 1914 (Cosmopolis).

Inez Bensusan was an Australian-born writer and activist who became active in the women's suffrage movement after she moved to London in the 1890s. Her plays include The Apple, Nobody's Sweetheart and The Prodigal Passes. She was also the author of the the film True Womanhood. She died in 1967.