FEMINIST literary giant Margot Mason sits on her arty but uncomfortable-looking furniture wrestling with the phone, her bra and writer’s block.

Through the French doors at the back of the Vaudeville Theatre’s stage, walks wide-eyed student Molly Mason, played by Anna Maxwell Martin, who initially seems to be Margot’s biggest fan on an unannounced visit.

But after Molly has plumped Margot’s ego with her impressive knowledge of every corner of her career, she pulls out a gag, some handcuffs and a gun. Based on a 2000 incident where Germane Greer was briefly held hostage in her English home, Australian writer Joanna Murray-Smith’s play Female of the Species is a farcical comedy that delivers a sharp stab at feminism.

Molly blames the Cerebral Vagina author, played expertly by Dame Eileen Atkins, for brainwashing generation of women, including Molly’s mother, who threw herself under a train clutching a copy of the famous title after reading its ethos on motherhood.

Through the 100 minute play, with no interval , the audience never shift in their seats unless to giggle at the barrage of classic one-liners, such as Margot illustrating her opinion on victimised women, by saying: “I know women who are in therapy because they weren’t sexually molested,” and demonstrating her age, by saying: “I remember when a Brazilian was a person.”

As the farce continues we are paid a visit by Margot’s greasy-haired and irate daughter who has found herself frowned upon by her mother for choosing a family life.

But after escaping her torment and leaving her three children home alone, the neurotic and hilarious Tess, played by Sophie Thompson, surprises the audience by being more interested in hearing Molly’s rhetoric on her mother’s career than coming to her rescue.

The men then get their turn in the sun, as Tess’s confused modern-man husband, an unapologetically masculine taxi driver and Margot’s camp publisher also join the debate on the writer’s ever-changing virtues.

Director Roger Michell makes the most of this deadly funny, adult comedy, full of sparky political jokes, and with plenty of pokes at old feminists, the show is sure to promote robust debate between male and female audience members.

The female performances were all without fault and continuously bought the house down, and despite male characters fitting a little too easily into stereotypes and the sequential succession of viewpoints becoming rather monotonous, the show is a must-see for anyone who has ever asked themselves, “what do women really want?”