Stage Rights!: Apr 20 & 27, 2013
All around Covent Garden,
Sats, 2-3.20 at 20 min intervals
About an hour and a half
Review: by Carole Woddis of performance undertaken April 20, 2013
Thank you for bringing it vividly to life.
There are some very good things coming out of Cornwall these days. And not only in the shape of Kneehigh. Rebecca Mordan’s interactive performance company, Scary Little Girls have already made a name for themselves performing at Brighton Fringe, and Glastonbury. Stage Rights, performed last Saturday (April 20) with another to come this Saturday (April 27) was an enlightening and absolutely fun trawl through Covent Garden on the occasion of the publication of The Methuen Book of Suffrage Plays by Naomi Paxton.
History is so quickly lost, particularly women’s history. And this volume is a long overdue reminder of the plays and contribution made by female actors in the period leading up to women’s suffrage which, one has to pinch oneself, only came about
AFTER the First World War.
Crucial to this activity was The Actresses’ Franchise League (1908-1934). Founded in 1908 in London’s Criterion Restaurant – its office became housed in the Adelphi Theatre – its main aim was to secure equal pay for actresses by way of also achieving the vote for women. Thus, this period saw a steep rise in dramas on the subject (Cicely Hamilton and Elizabeth Robins were particularly active) whilst early supporters also included performers such as Ellen Terry, Edith Craig and Sybil Thorndyke.
Rebecca Mordan takes this history and has remodelled it into what she calls ` living literature walk’. Starting out at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and armed with Notes which told us not only which directions to follow but the history inside and around certain buildings, we encountered characters suddenly bursting out on street corners into speeches telling us of the excitement of campaigning for the Vote, of being arrested and force fed (horrific), of the divisions between the less and the more militant members of the movement (eg the Women’s Social & Political Union) and, memorably, on a cold and wind-swept corner behind Adelphi House and the Embankment, the men – and women – of the Anti-Suffrage Society who believed women’s role was in the home, and only the home.
We saw all walks of life represented and, as Mordan’s notes relate: `Covent Garden was teeming with possibilities – you could learn jujitsu on Shaftesbury Avenue, buy Suffrage tea on Charing Cross Road, attend a meeting run by famous West End actresses and then hear Suffragettes being tried at Bow Street Magistrates Court.
During the 1911 Census boycott, over a thousand Suffragettes stayed out all night roller skating at the Aldwych Rinkeries.’
My, what a time! And to think that was all going on, barely a century ago. Thank you Rebecca and Naomi for bringing it all back to life so vividly, bravely and entertainingly.
Rebecca Mordan – reading The First Actress by Christopher St John
Naomi Paxton – enacting The Sleepless Woman by Kate Kerrow
Sarah Ford, Steve Fortune and Laura Wickham – enacting Tradition by George Middleton
Kathryn Martin and Ellie Robertson – enacting Pot and Kettle by Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John
Sally Mortemore – reciting Woman’s Cause by Laurence Housman
Helen Miller – relating An Anti-Suffragist or The Other Side by H. M. Paull
Emma Fenney – enacting Her Vote by H V Esmond
Rosie Ede – enacting Mrs Pancake by Naomi Paxton
Mary McCusker – enacting The Mother’s Meeting by Mrs Harlow Phibbs
Directors: Rebecca Mordan and Naomi Paxton
With special thanks to Mark Rylance for providing the original inspiration for the Sonnet Walks and generously sharing his ideas, and to Abigail Anderson for bringing them to Scary Little Girls.
For more info, see www.scarylittlegirls.co.uk or firstname.lastname@example.org