The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays: Taking the Stage features a wide variety of short pieces and one-act plays written by female and male suffragist writers between 1908-1914.
Spanning different styles and genres they explore many issues that interested feminist and suffragist campaigners such as: the value of women's work, domestic and economic inequality, visibility in public space, direct action and its consequences, sexual double standards, and the influence of the media on public opinion.
Edited and introduced by Dr Naomi Paxton, the anthology is brimming with in-depth knowledge, photographs and contextual information of the period making for an informative and inspirational volume that's perfect for both performance and study.
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Dr Naomi Paxton is a performer, researcher and suffrage historian. She trained at Goldsmiths College and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and her doctoral research, completed in 2015 at the University of Manchester, explored the work of theatre professionals in the suffrage campaign. Naomi regularly speaks about her research in the media and at a variety of events and festivals, and was one of the AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers in 2014-15. She is an Associate Artist of the feminist production hub Scary Little Girls. Her other publications include The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays (Bloomsbury, 2013) and Stage Rights! The Actresses' Franchise League, activism and politics 1908-1958 (Manchester University Press, 2018).
· 1. Introduction by Naomi Paxton This will introduce the role and importance of theatre and performance in the Edwardian suffrage campaign, and introduce each piece in turn with its original performance context, biographical information about the writer and an analysis of its particular themes and ideas.
All plays are short one-act works of variable length.
· 2. Anti-Suffrage Waxworks by Cicely Hamilton (1908) adapted by Naomi Paxton
Based on Mrs Jarley's Waxworks, a very popular late-Victorian and early-Edwardian entertainment, Hamilton's Anti-Suffrage Waxworks were funny, participatory and satirical. The original script does not survive, but Paxton will recreate the piece from contemporary descriptions of the Anti-Suffrage Waxworks and through the format of Mrs Jarley's Waxworks.
· 3. Might is Right by Netta Syrett (1909) 8F 4M In this ensemble comedy, a group of suffragist women kidnap the Prime Minister and refuse to release him until he agrees to give women the vote. It was originally performed at the Haymarket Theatre, London.
· 4. A Woman's Influence by Gertrude Jennings (1909) 4F 1M This popular suffrage play explores the topic of female 'sweated' labour, and the relationships between women and men.
· 5. Press Cuttings by George Bernard Shaw (1909) 3F 3M This satirical comedy ridicules anti-suffragists and politicians.
· 6. Woman This and Woman That by Laurence Housman (1910) This poem, a pastiche of Rudyard Kipling's Tommy, was popular within the campaign and championed by the Actresses' Franchise League and Sylvia Pankhurst's East London Federation of Suffragettes.
· 7. The Twelve Pound Look by J.M. Barrie (1910) 2F 2M This short play is about independence and the value of women's work.
· 8. For One Night Only by Gladys B. Stern (1911) 5F 1M This piece is set backstage in a touring pantomime, and looks at the pressures of life on the road for young actresses.
· 9. 10 Clowning Street by Joan Dugdale (1913) 3F 4M A piece by a militant campaigner and actress about a publicity stunt carried out by an anti-suffragist Prime Minster which backfires.
· 10. Her Will by Christopher St John (1914) 4F 3M In this short play, the family of a suffragette meet to hear the reading of her will, and some of them do not like what they hear.
· 11. Su L' Pave by Gladys Mendl (1914) This short piece is presented as a comical verbatim account of the experiences of a suffrage newspaper seller on the street. It presents a snapshot of Edwardian London that is fascinating, and is a good stimulus for workshopping and devising material around visibility in public space.
· 12. Which by Evelyn Glover (1914) 2F 2M This short play features a young nurse, who has been offered a job overseas. She comes to tell her father about the opportunity, but he is not as pleased as she had hoped.
Bibliography, how to find out more, and recommended reading
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