by Jessica Swale.
Shakespeare’s Globe 21 New Globe Walk Bankside SE1 9DT In rep to 11 October 2013.
2pm 21 Sept, 5 Oct.
7.30pm 12, 13 Sept, 4, 7, 11 Oct.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7401 9919.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 August.
Lively reminder of how every right can involve complex fights.
When an experienced theatre director writes a play, a sense of structure is the least you’d expect. In fact, structure is far from the smallest quality in Jessica Swale’s account of early women students at Cambridge University.
Aptly, on the Globe’s open-air stage, Blue Stockings has an opening line-up where late Victorians announce male criticism and female encouragement of women’s higher education. Incredulous laughter and cheers respectively are a modern audience’s expected responses.
Then, laughter over, when Edward Peel’s imposing figure next expresses these (now) absurd-seeming views as leading psychologist Henry Maudsley they carry the considerable weight Maudsley (then) had.
These young science students are enrolled at Girton College, where the late 1880s saw the right to study develop into a new campaign to graduate. The male response was violent, and very masculine in its pride.
Power is insidious – there’s another audience cheer for the woman shopkeeper who refuses to sell material to make the women’s signature blue-stockings to men who wish to mock them – only for the rebellion to be damped by the power of ownership.
Even the men who are ashamed of the violence cannot see the women’s viewpoint. Yet what emerges from the new students’ lively intelligence is how much gets lost by suppressing women to subordinate roles in society.
And Swale explores the difficulties the women face; whether to open a broad-front with the suffrage campaign, or to keep away from it to protect their own struggle. It is the female authorities at Girton who send a bright student home to look after her family. And it is love that leads to another failing her viva.
John Dove’s production keeps events moving, making fine use of the stage, with private assignations acted upon the narrow pathway, and a classroom divided into separate blocks of women students (largely ignored) and men. The final outcome of the graduation campaign is unfurled in a triumphant flourish undermined somewhat by its words.
Far from sensationalising the matter, Swale is restrained in comparison with opposition behaviour quoted in the programme. That’s worth reading, and this production is well worth seeing.
Librarian/Radleigh/Waiter: Huss Garbiya.
Carolyn: Tala Gouveia.
Lloyd/Billy: Tom Lawrence.
Miss Welsh: Gabrielle Lloyd.
Collins/Mr Peck: Christopher Logan.
Maeve: Molly Logan.
Miss Blake: Sarah MacRae.
Mr Banks: Fergal McElherron.
Maudsley/Anderson: Edward Peel.
Tess: Ellie Piercey.
Minnie/Woman at Table: Stephanie Racine.
Celia: Olivia Ross.
Ralph: Joshua Silver.
Holmes: Perri Snowdon.
Edwards: Matthew Tennyson.
Will: Luke Thompson.
Mis Bott/Mrs Lindley: Hilary Tones.
Undergraduates: Robert Hand, Kevin Leslie.
Director: John Dove.
Designer: Michael Taylor.
Composer: William Lyons.
Choreographer: Siân Williams.
Globe Associate – Movement: Glynn MacDonald.
Fight director: Terry King.