Review by Paul Nelson
AN UTTERLY delightful evening, peppered with polite jokes and
sporting some excellent performances, can be found at the Finborough
Theatre with its latest in-house production, The Women
At War - A Centenary Celebration.
The evening is comprised of sketches written contemporaneously
by members of the militant National Union of Women's Suffrage,
Women's Social and Political Union and their supporters, not surprisingly
one of them being George Bernard Shaw.
How The Vote Was Won is a very funny one-act play. In
suburban Horace Cole's house, female relatives of him and his
wife converge ostensibly for tea.
Horace is a staunch opponent of women's suffrage and, wild as
his reactionary ideas are, he none-the-less puts them across earnestly
However, the prospect of an army of females not only having tea
in his home, but also planning to stay indefinitely, finally breaks
down his resolve and he joins the distaff ranks.
A Chat With Mrs Chicky is another gem. The play has two
characters, upper class Mrs Holbrook and charwoman, Mrs Chicky.
Mrs Holbrook's aim is to 'educate' the working classes and point
out to them how unnecessary and foolish it is to wish for the
vote. A likely candidate for her to persuade is hard-working Mrs
Chicky, but Mrs Chicky is not simply a cleaning machine, she has
a brain, can reason, and neatly and deftly turns the tables on
the hapless Mrs Holbrook. Mrs Chicky is a card-carrying member
of the suffrage movement.
There follows an unsentimental tribute to Emily Davison, who
famously threw herself in front of the King's horse in the 1913
Derby, which, in spite of its factuality, I found quite moving.
Dominique Gerrard, who was struggling to find her character in
the first play, sails home in this monologue.
The GBS play is Press Cuttings, a one-act rant at the
stupidity of the authorities not to realise that women are fellow
creatures deserving fellow rights.
It has plenty of amusing touches, the Prime Minister Balsquith
having to disguise himself in drag in order to get into the War
Office through female picket lines being just one.
The play is overlong, Shaw always was carried away with his messages
to the world, and this is no exception. It redeems itself by presenting
opportunities for some splendid acting and Edmund Dehn as General
Mitchener along with John Edmunds as Balsquith rise to its challenge
and present a good deal of enjoyment.
The evening ends with Dame Ethel Smyth's vibrant March of
the Women, written for a fundraising rally at the Royal Albert
Hall in 1911.
The whole is goaded along by the charming Caroline Head, a dame
with not only a pretty ankle I can assure you. As far as women's
rights are concerned the sketches give excellent arguments for,
along with some real chances for the girls to get to grips with
some fine character lines, all in all giving an evening of pure
The Women's War - A Centenary Celebration, Directed by Laura
Dunton Clarke. Designed by Alex Marker, Lighting by Robert Gooch.
How The Vote Was Won by Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John
WITH: Anna Ledwich (Winifred), Josephine Peer (Ethel), Alexandra
Francis (Lily), James Price (Horace), Rob Hughes (Gerald), Cally
Lawrence (Agatha), Dominique Gerrard (Molly), Caroline Head (Maudie
Spark), Lou Harvey (Madame Christine), Jackie Everett (Aunt Lizzie).
A Chat With Mrs Chicky by Evelyn Glover WITH: Anna Ledwich (Mrs
Holbrook), Jackie Everett (Mrs Chicky).
Tribute to Emily Wilding Davison by Mary Richardson WITH: Dominique
Gerrard (Mary Richardson).
Press Cuttings by George Bernard Shaw WITH: Edmund Dehn (General
Mitchener), Rob Hughes (The Orderly), John Edmunds (Prime Minister
Balsquith), Lou Harvey (Mrs Farrell), Cally Lawrence (Mrs Banger),
Josephine Peer (Lady Corinthia).
The March of the Women, Music by Ethel Smyth, Lyric by Cicely
Hamilton, WITH: The Company led by Caroline Head. Presented by
Wild Pendulum in association with Concordance at the Finborough
Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 Tickets 020 7373 3842.