Life at The Little Theatre column: Lets focus on our powerful female plays

Ladies Day (picture: Fletcher Hill Photography) By Jennifer Corcoran and Andrew Sloman We continue our celebration of women in the theatre as part of Women’s History Month by looking at some of the recent plays we have brought to you that were written by female playwrights.

Last week we mentioned that John Godber’s plays have been performed by the Hull Truck Theatre Company. The company website confirms that they produce and present inspiring theatre that reflects the diversity of modern Britain. Amanda Whittington has had her work performed there, as well as many other venues.

The Nottingham born journalist turned dramatist has written over 30 plays for theatre and radio. We have performed two of her works in recent years. In April 2016 Southport Dramatic Club invited you to join us at Ladies Day alongside Pearl, Jan, Shelley and Linda.

The women work together in a fish factory and are more accustomed to hairnets than fascinators. When Linda gets hold of a ticket to Ladies Day at the races the foursome embark on a one off day of dressing up, drinking fizz and daring to dream. As the day goes on, and lips are loosened by liquor, their hopes and fears bubble up and they learn more about one another, and themselves.

It is a warmly observed slice of ordinary people having an extraordinary day. Our version sent the fab four to Aintree as a nod to our locale, although the original is set in Hull. Two years later, in April 2018, we were transported back to Whittington’s 1997 play Be My Baby.  Set in 1964, the play follows 19 year old Mary Adams who is sent to a religious mother and baby home when her parents discover her pregnancy.

She meets rebellious Queenie, day dreamer Dolores and naive Norma at the home and they share their stories and bond. Forced to wear wedding rings and verbally shamed on their rare trips out, and put to task with chores at the home, the young women find escapism in music.

Be My Baby (picture: Fletcher Hill Photography)

The tale is bittersweet, and was inspired by real life practices in an endeavour to share the stories of these women, shunned by society whilst the men in question continued their day-to-day lives. Later in the same year we brought you a different slice of history with Handbagged, by Moira Buffini.

Buffini was born in Preston, studied English and Drama at Goldsmiths then trained as an actor at the Royal Welsh in the late 1980s. She soon expanded her repertoire to writing and directing and has written multiple plays as well as being a prolific screenwriter with credits including the 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre and the British-American period drama Harlots. Written in 2013 and performed by the SDC in November 2018, Handbagged examines the relationship between Queen Elizabeth and Margaret Thatcher.

Four actors represent the pair as their older and younger versions. The younger versions are called Liz and Mags, and their older counterparts become Q and T. Multiple roles are taken by two further actors who are called on to represent the Reagans, Dennis Thatcher and Neil Kinnock among others.

The play originated as a one act then developed to the full production we presented. Audiences were fascinated by the imagined discussions the quartet raised covering their period of working together from 1979 to 1990. It was also a rare opportunity to find four meaty roles for older women actors!

Did you see any of these shows, what did you think?

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