work love vote

Love Work and the Vote

 

The staging of two plays by Gertrude Jennings and the two sketches from the repertoire of the Actresses Franchise League offered a unique chance to see works of theatre that had been overlooked or even forgotten for years. As ‘lost plays’ they come to life again with a vitality that makes them as entertaining and illuminating for an audience today as they were for the first spectators over 100 years ago.

The two plays were published just months before the outbreak of war making them a unique window on domestic life in the years leading up to 1914. This was an exciting if turbulent time when women came together to fight for their right to vote, questioned the unfairness of working conditions including unequal pay, and debated the ‘pros and cons’ of marriage. The plays raise an intriguing question – what would have happened if war had not broken out and changed everything?

Gertrude Jennings

Gertrude Jennings’ two short comedies are from a collection of four one-act plays published in 1914. She began her career as an actress and from about 1909 until her death in 1958 wrote over 50 plays. Her play  ‘A Woman’s Influence’ was a popular choice with suffrage groups. During the First World War she took her own company of actors to perform to soldiers in France, and also toured army camps around the UK with the Women’s Theatre Camps Entertainments.

‘Between the Soup and the Savoury’ features day-to-day working life in the kitchen for three female servants, and in ‘Pros and Cons’ a middle class marriage descends into argumentative turmoil.  Jennings makes a feature of the feisty intelligence of the kitchen servants and their attitude to their bosses, and in ‘Pros and Cons’ she writes a witty critique of marriage and the relationship and roles of the sexes within it.

Actresses Franchise League

The Actresses Franchise League (AFL) was formed in 1908 to support the suffrage movement including the militant WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union founded by Emmeline Pankhurst). At its height in 1913 had a membership of over 900 actresses that included leading performers of the day. It not only performed in London, but toured to suffrage groups all over the country.

The two sketches performed tonight are satirical commentaries on the anti-suffrage movement (it may surprise some to learn that there was such an organisation led by women). ‘The Mothers’ Meeting’ features a working class woman of middle age describing how she found herself at an anti-suffrage meeting instead of (what she thought) was a church Mothers’ Meeting. She describes how she becomes more and more angry at the anti-suffrage comments and ends up heckling the speaker (a policy of the WSPU) about women’s rights.  ‘An Anti-Suffragist’ is typical of the satirical fun had at the expense of the anti-suffrage movement by the AFL. The speech by the middle class Miss De Lacey is her pitch for new members to a local anti-suffrage branch. It mirrors the ‘At Home’ meetings popular with the suffrage leagues and Miss De Lacey’s comic attempts at putting the anti-suffrage argument only serve to underline the case for change.

 

 

The Mothers’ Meeting

by Mrs Harlow Phibbs

 

MRS PETER PUCKLE     Stephanie Fayerman

 

Pros and Cons

by Gertrude Jennings

 

Under the title ‘Our Nervous System’ ‘Pros and Cons’ was first produced at the Playhouse Theatre London on April 16 1911

 

BRENDA            Hannah Vere Nicoll

MRS CHRISTIE   Rebecca Peyton

EVANGELINE   Joss Wyre

FREDDIE            Patrick Cavendish

 

An Anti-Suffragist or The Other Side

by H M Paull

 

MISS DE LACEY       Hannah Vere Nicoll

THE CHAIRMAN     Patrick Cavendish

 

Between the Soup and the Savoury

by Gertrude Jennings

 

First produced at the Playhouse Theatre London on October 19 1910

 

MARIE The Cook               Rebecca Peyton

ADA The Parlour Maid     Hannah Vere Nicoll

Emily The Kitchen Maid   Joss Wyre

 

 

Produced and Directed by Barry Edwards

Costume and stage Design  Giles Chiplin

Casting   Polly Hootkins CDG

Exhibition design   Greg Epps

Assistant Stage Manager Samantha Plumb

Film record Canis Lupus Studio

Cookery consultant  Carolyn Robb

 

 

 


Biographies

 

Patrick Cavendish Freddie / Chairman

Patrick was a member of the National Youth Theatre from the age of 16, before he went on to train at RADA and Arts Ed School of Acting.  Since then he has appeared in three short films and his television credits include Eastenders and the TV drama Battle Lines. He is fortunate to be the great nephew of Laurence Olivier and has always been aware of the standards he set, which have been his inspiration.

Giles Chiplin Designer

Costume Design includes Celia Imrie: Laughing Matters St James Theatre Studio, Queen Mary II  and The Nuffield Theatre Southampton and short film Marine Spirit Attack. Set and Costume Design includes Aftercare The White Bear Theatre, and Cissie And Ada: An Hysterical Rectomy Broadway Theatre Barking.

 

Barry Edwards Producer and Director

Barry studied at Sussex University and on graduating his directing debut was at the Brighton Combination with Howard Brenton’s Winter Daddykins. Postgraduate study at Essex University was followed by extensive touring with companies Ritual Theatre and Paradise Foundry. He has been Artistic Director of Optik since its formation in 1981 and his work has been seen nationally and to date in 14 countries internationally. He was Head of Research in Performing Arts at Brunel University for nine years and is now a partner in research and development group TheatreLab. He is a creative director with the London production company Scenepool, presenting over 200 companies and writers over the past ten years.

 

Greg Epps Exhibition design

Greg works with projects ranging from exhibition, installation, event, furniture, architecture and public space design. He is the course director for BA Interior Design at the Design School, Kingston University.

 

Stephanie Fayerman Mrs Puckle

Stephanie has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and has played seasons at Sheffield Crucible, Liverpool Everyman and Birmingham Repertory Theatre. She has appeared at many major theatres including the Royal Court, West Yorkshire Playhouse, the Gielgud Shaftesbury Avenue & Hampstead Theatre. Her numerous TV credits include Eastenders, Dr Who, Brides in the Bath, Casualty, The Inbetweeners and Doctors.

 

Polly Hootkins CDG Casting

Polly was an actress and agent before becoming a casting director. Trained at LAMDA.. Film credits include : A New Day in Old Sana’a (first ever Yemeni feature film, cast and shot in Yemen), Captain Jack, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Cutthroat Island, Dark Blood, Prospero’s Books and Utz.   TV credits include : Wild at Heart, Rose & Maloney, Marguerite Volant a 10 x1 hour series for French Canadian TV.  Theatre credits include : a Chichester Festival Season, Faithful Dealing at Soho Theatre, M. Butterfly for Singapore Repertory Theatre, The Wood Demon at The Playhouse, London.

 

Sally Lewis and Kezia Newson / Canis Lupus Studio Film record

Canis Lupus Studio is the creation of Sally Lewis and Kezia Newson, two life long friends and recent graphic communication graduates. Based in London, Canis Lupus are interested in social and participatory projects, using photography and film to document and celebrate people and events.

 

Hannah Vere Nicoll Brenda / Ada / Miss de Lacey

Hannah has just graduated from the Guildford School of Acting and was a Spotlight Prize Nominee for 2014. At GSA she played Clytemenestra in The Oresteia, Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest and played the lead role in Winding Lane for the Met Film School.

 

Rebecca Peyton Mrs Christie / Cook

Rebecca played the title role in the BBC film Elizabeth Fry and other TV credits include Eastenders, Casualty and the BBC 4 film Stan. Her film credits include Where I Belong, Mary Tudor and The Rat Trap.  Her theatre work includes appearances at the Bristol Old Vic, Arcola, Barbican and Soho Theatre. Rebecca’s first play, Sometimes I Laugh Like My Sister, a one-woman show she has toured nationally and internationally, is published by Oberon Books.

 

Samantha Plumb   Assistant Stage Manager

Samantha is a recent graduate in dance from Middlesex University. She is now pursuing her interest in dance movement therapy.

 

Carolyn Robb Cookery consultant

Carolyn is Co-founder of The Royal Touch and was formerly Executive Chef to TRH Prince Charles and Princess Diana for eleven years and also served other members of the Royal Family. She now runs her own company ‘Calla-Bash’.

 

Joss Wyre Evangeline / Emily

Joss graduated from Mountview Academy last year. Earlier this year she performed in a new adaptation of Jane Eyre at The Rosemary Branch where she played the roles of Adele, Helen Burns and Mary Rivers. Other roles include Gozer in Future Cinema’s Ghostbusters and her first feature film The Hallow will be in cinemas in December. Other film credits include The Walk, Fears of Parenthood and Through a Glass Darkly. Joss is also trained in aerial circus at Aircraft Circus and specialises in contortion.