REVIEW: Suffragette ✹✹✹✹ at Newcastle Alphabetti
Coracle Productions in partnership with Alphabetti Theatre,
supported by the Newcastle Culture Investment Fund Presents
Short plays from today and 100 years ago
Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre
Until Saturday 19th May 2018
Tonight was a night that is perfect for the Alphabetti set up. 5 themed plays, each with talented actors and its own message, in front of an appreciative audience. The venue’s new season continues from strength to strength.
As Britain celebrates the historic events of 100 years ago, it is a good time to reflect upon the progress made in levelling the playing field for women. Coracle asked for submissions, and this resulted in plays being sent in from around the world. The five plays that made up the show are varied, thought provoking and often funny. There is a contemporary piece from 1909 and 4 new works.
"How The Vote Was Won" by Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John (1909)
Presented by special arrangement with Samuel French Ltd.
A staged reading directed by Rachael Walsh
Horace Cole comes home to discover that the fight for the vote has literally arrived at his doorstep. As it is written over 100 years ago, the tone and the phraseology can be a little foreign to our 21st century ears. I cannot imagine many in the audience employ servants or question the concept of everyone over 18 having a vote. This staged reading helped give a context to the action which followed in the evening.
Director Rachael Walsh uses a cast of 8 to good effect. The absurdity of the occasion is rammed home in a light hearted way. The arrival of each guest presented a new challenge for Horace. You almost feel sorry for him.
"Banter" by Christopher Moore (Ireland)
Cast Lucy Curry and Daniel Watson
The remainder of the evening’s action has been directed by Matt Jamie, who has helped bring the dialogue to the fore in each case.
Banter features a pair of siblings discussing a series of posts on WhatsApp. His mates have accidently invited him into a conversation about a girl that they’d met on a recent night out. Countering the macho position of Daniel Watson’s character, we have a sister who tries to present the female perspective. There is also the added angle that the setting is Ireland and some options are not easily available there. Never lecturing, you do wonder if there is going to be a big reveal from Lucy Curry’s character. The way it is handled is totally appropriate and that helps create move more post show debate.
"An Accident of Birth" by Lizi Patch (North Yorks)
Cast Jude Nelson and Adam Jordan Donaldson
Bathed in red light and in white suits, the final play before the interval had twins chatting before their birth. With both comic and naïve observations An Accident of Birth suggests gender politics begins at the very start. It may be tongue in cheek, but I did find myself wondering what babies really pick up inside of their mother. There is a warmth to Lizi Patch’s script. It helped complete the first act on an upbeat note.
"Women and Girls" by Allison Davies (North East)
Cast Arabella Arnott and Brogan Gilbert
The second act opens with a tough exploration of relationships and experiences. Through forthright storytelling skills, and some repetition, the ideas about the uneven hand of sexual experiences are explored. There is passion with this tale and it has potential to become the basis of a longer examination of the themes.
"Someone Had To Do Something" by Arabella Arnott (Newcastle)
Cast Zoe Lambert and Jackie Edwards
The recognition of both Zoe’s and Jackie’s character helped to draw the evening to a close on a lighter note. That is not to suggest that there isn’t a serious message. Jackie comes across as a teenager who knows the answers to everything. As that Facebook meme states: “Teenagers: leave home now whilst you know everything’. Jackie was also able to present the egocentricity of a child who does not appreciate the repercussions of her actions. Zoe, by contrast, has great timing as the Mum who finds no one else in her house wants to help out. I said there was a serious edge and, indeed, there is an issue that women work longer hours but the expectation in their role as a ‘housewife’ has not diminished to compensate for it. It was a very pleasing way to complete the show.
Suffragette is both intelligent and accessible. Through five poignant plays we are also entertained. Believable characters and recognisable situations combine to make a worthwhile and entertaining evening at the theatre. As it is on a pay-what-you-feel basis, it is great, low risk, introduction to the community of Alphabetti Theatre. We don’t need a Great North Exhibition when affordable shows as good as this are available on a regular basis.
Review by Stephen Oliver.
On The Web:
Twitter: @coracleNE @alphabetti
SUFFRAGETTE - Short plays from today and 100 years ago
When: Thursday 17 – Saturday 19 May 2018 at 7:30pm
Where: Alphabetti Theatre, St James’ Boulevard, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Tickets PAY WHAT YOU FEEL – to reserve tickets please go to: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/237366.