Home   Lifestyle   Article

Subscribe Now

The long haul from the start of the Suffrage campaign to voting equality





Emmeline at the Old Fire Station, Oxford, from February 8-12. Review by JON LEWIS

Theatre Lab Company, a London-based group that stages plays with Greek themes and works with creatives with a Greek heritage, has embarked on a short UK tour with a new play, Emmeline, by Beatrice Hyde (who’s from a Greek family) that was first staged in 2021.

Its subject is Emmeline Pankhurst, the dynamic leader of the Suffragette movement.

Emmeline, YIANNIS KATSARIS
Emmeline, YIANNIS KATSARIS
Emmeline, YIANNIS KATSARIS
Emmeline, YIANNIS KATSARIS

The Suffragettes were named by The Daily Mail which they adopted happily, we are told. At the start of the play, in 1898, Emmeline’s husband, a campaigner for socialism, has just died and she inducts her three grown-up female children into her new movement.

Directed by Anastasia Revi working with an all-female creative team, Emmeline has moments of visual splendour that look stupendous in a small-scale theatre.

This is an earnest play that follows the story of the Suffragette movement chronologically. The heart of the drama concerns Emmeline (Georgie Rhys) and her relationship with daughters Sylvia (Beatrice Hyde), Christabel (Rujenne Green) and Adela (Lydia Vie).

Emmeline, YIANNIS KATSARIS
Emmeline, YIANNIS KATSARIS
Emmeline, YIANNIS KATSARIS
Emmeline, YIANNIS KATSARIS

Sylvia grows apart from feminist politics due to her adulterous relationship with the Scottish Labour leader Keir Hardie (Matthew Wade), who prefers to campaign for the enfranchisement of all working class people rather than concentrate on women voters.

The play is full of marching songs, period slogans and excerpts from Parliamentary debates. Much of the content is similar to Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s better-known play Her Naked Skin, with distressing scenes of forced feeding of female inmates in Holloway Prison.

Revi’s style and Hyde’s script take a more physical theatre route to displaying these scenes, each prisoner wearing a miniature cage on their heads to suggest incarceration.

It’s a long haul from the start of the campaign to eventual voting equality in the 1928 with Emmeline, as well as Hardie, dying too soon to experience the moment of victory. Emmeline is not a sympathetic character, her tough love approach to her daughters seeing Adela banished to Australia and Sylvia ostracised for her affair. Rhys’ leading performance brings out Emmeline’s waspish nature well although sometimes the verbose language trips up her fluency.

A worthy, wordy play.



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More