Picture the scene thus:
Two Edwardian actresses meet
whilst walking through Covent Garden.
It's a balmy afternoon some time in autumn 1913.
I've created an Actresses' Franchise League version of the popular 2048 game - it's like a sliding block puzzle game. Here's a screenshot of what it looks like:
Whilst on tour in the UK in the autumn of 2009, I thought a lot about the Actresses' Franchise League, local suffrage societies across the country and the history of performers being on tour. I decided that I would speak the final speech by 'Woman' in Cicely Hamilton's 1909 play "A Pageant of Great Women" on the stage in every venue that I knew had held, or was old enough to have held suffrage meetings or performances or might have been where members of the Actresses' Franchise League performed during their careers.
I chose the speech from "Pageant", not only because it's beautiful, passionate and full of hope but also because it was one of the most widely performed suffrage plays in the period 1909-1914 and so therefore the most likely to have been done in that venue or town. Some venues were particularly special to me - and being in the Theatre Royal Margate was a thrill as so many AFL members had started their careers and trained in Margate with Sarah Thorne!
The past fortnight has been very exciting!
I'm preparing at the moment for an upcoming Platform event at the National on Tuesday 25th June called 'Suffragettes on Stage'.
It's going to feature extracts from suffrage plays and a panel discussion about the work of the Actresses' Franchise League. Actresses Samantha Bond and Janie Dee are going to be on the panel with Professor Maggie Gale from the University of Manchester and myself. Baroness Genista McIntosh is chairing.
Samantha Bond directed a suffrage play for me called 'Lady Geraldine's Speech' in a triple bill of the plays called 'Knickerbocker Glories' at the Union Theatre in 2010 and Janie Dee took part in the first readings of the plays with me at the Novello and Prince of Wales Theatres back in 2008 - it'll be great to have their perspectives as both politically aware working women and actresses on their Edwardian counterparts. Hopefully it's a great mix on the panel - two tip top experienced, interested and intelligent actresses, a brilliant theatre historian and a Labour peer who has been on the boards of the RSC, the NT and the Opera House… and me ;)
I'll be signing copies of 'The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays' afterwards.
It's going to be a fantastic afternoon and will make the point (yet again) that women's work, writing and lives need to be celebrated, talked about and respected. Especially at the National Theatre.
It runs from from 2.30-4pm in the Lyttelton Theatre and tickets are £6.
CLICK HERE for more info and to book
Hope to see you there!
Knickerbocker Glories was a show that I produced and was part of in June 2010 at the Union Theatre in London. It consisted of three fully staged one-act plays: Miss Appleyard’s Awakening by Evelyn Glover (first performed on 20th June 1911), Lady Geraldine’s Speech by Beatrice Harraden (part of the entertainment at the Princes Skating Rink for the WSPU’s Women’s Suffrage Exhibition in May 1909) and How The Vote Was Won by Cicely Hamilton and Chris St John, (first performed at the Royalty Theatre on the 13th April 1909). All of these pieces were originally presented for a sympathetic, pro-suffrage audience and all were originally written for the Actresses Franchise League.
Thoughts, reflections, bits of research