Bloody Wimmin make their mark at Greenham
Bloody Wimmin at Greenham Control Tower on Thursday, September 30 and Friday, October 1. Review by DUDLEY JONES
Last Thursday and Friday, Greenham Tower Theatre Company performed Lucy Kirkwood’s play Bloody Wimmin, about the women who protested for two decades following the decision to site nuclear weapons on the common.
The play was performed under a marquee at the Control Tower. An unplanned soundtrack of pouring rain, howling winds and flapping canvas on the first night meant the cast of eight had little difficulty conveying the fortitude of the women living for months, sometimes years, in tents around the USAF base.
The play opens with a female reporter becoming increasingly irritated by interruptions from the women around her as she tries to record her piece. The action cuts back and forth between her and two Greenham women attempting to resolve petty bickering over who’s in charge of communal cooking. We’re made aware of the practical difficulties facing the protesters – lack of sanitation, aggressive police tactics and opposition from local residents. This scene is brought to an abrupt conclusion by the entrance of Helen, her hands covered in blood. “I’m going home,” she announces.
Arriving home, she becomes involved in a quarrel with husband Bob, who thinks she’s left the camp for good, only to learn that – though pregnant – she intends to return and stay there “for as long as it takes”. Their quarrel develops into a game of brinkmanship that mirrors the nuclear missile stand-off between the super-powers.
The period switches to the present-day and an ‘Extinction Rebellion’ protest. We see how things have both changed (the organisation’s far more sophisticated) and also remained the same. James, Helen’s grown-up son, becomes involved in an argument with Sophie, a spikey activist. Again, the argument develops into one of gender and sexual politics, but this time it’s resolved amicably, with Sophie admitting she knows little about the Greenham women protesters.
In the final scene, Sophie discovers that her grandmother, Lilian, joined the Peace Camp for a short time. In a moving speech, Lilian tells Sophie this was an experience that changed her life.
Bloody Wimmin is an ensemble piece, and it would be invidious to single out individual performances. It’s a challenging play and the cast rose to meet its challenges superbly, capturing the passionate commitment of the Greenham women. Director Andy Kempe overcame multiple problems – the pandemic, fuel shortages and the elements – to present a stimulating and thought-provoking production.