On Tuesday 25th June the Suffragettes on Stage Platform event at the
National Theatre went really well - sharing some of the story of the Actresses' Franchise League and their work and lives along with extracts from four of their most popular plays.
Having Janie Dee and Samantha Bond on the panel as well as in the cast provided a direct link to the AFL - well-known actresses involved in both political and charitable causes speaking on stage about their experiences as performers and working women. Professor Maggie Gale contextualised the period and the plays fantastically - if you're interested in the history of women in twentieth century British theatre and haven't read her book West End Women then I urge you to do so. Baroness Genista McIntosh was a brilliant chair - and had to dash off directly after the event to go and vote in the House of Lords - a perfect way to end a discussion on the fight for Votes for Women!
For me it was a moving and joyful afternoon. I had been nervous throughout the preparations, wanting so much to honour the respect and admiration I have for AFL by representing them well to the audience.
During the morning rehearsals my nervousness melted away as it became clear again, as it always does, how much the passion, energy and humour of the plays speak directly to audiences as well as performers... and when it came to the afternoon performance it was a sheer delight to be on stage celebrating and talking about their work to such a big and enthusiastic audience.
Thanks to everyone who came - and to all those who took part. Thanks also to everyone who queued up for the book signing - all the books sold out!
Having spoken about actresses doing their 'party pieces' at events to support women's causes in the Edwardian era - it was then a very nice symmetry to be involved myself in Stand Up For Women at the Garrick Theatre on the 7th July!
A fundraiser for three charities - No More Page 3, Rape Crisis, and Women's Aid, I was on the bill as my comedy character Ada Campe in a fantastic line-up of comics of both genders donating their time and talents to entertain the audience, support the campaigns and raise money and awareness.
Obviously it was great to be part of such a good line-up and performing in the West End but there was a resonance with my research too. The Garrick Theatre opened on 24th April 1889 with a performance of The Profligate by Arthur Wing Pinero, who would be at the inaugural Actresses' Franchise League meeting 19 years later. In the company of The Profligate were other future AFL members and supporters: Johnston Forbes-Robertson, Olga Nethersole and Marianne Caldwell. Lewis Waller's wife, the actress Frances West, would also join the League.
I appreciated performing in that beautiful venue at an event that celebrated and supported campaigns and charities that work hard to better women's lives today - with an awareness of the history of such events and those who took part.
I'm very proud to be engaged with the history of women performers standing up for women's causes -
and very proud to be a contemporary performer doing the same!
Click here to find out about Stand Up For Women and the causes they support
Read more on my blog about Suffragettes on Stage
Click here to find out more about Ada Campe!