Review of “Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere” by Suzanne Hawkes. Black & White Productions, October 2018
Last year Suzanne Hawkes wrote and produced a play about the first British-trained woman doctor, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, from Aldeburgh. This autumn she has turned her attention to Elizabeth’s sister, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, who led the campaign for women’s suffrage. Millicent has a statue opposite Parliament that was unveiled in this, the 100th anniversary of some British women getting the vote.
As is usual with Black and White Productions and Suzanne’s masterly historic productions, this is more than just a play. It is a dramatised history lesson, with a narrator (Paul Pascall, assisted by Suzanne), plenty of music and a smattering of humour. Well-researched, and well-acted, some of those involved take on several different characters, via a change of costume or accent. I saw the play at the church of St Peter and St Paul in Felixstowe. The chancel steps are the stage, which is backed by a tri-fold screen. I liked the way the Suffragettes and the Suffragists badges were painted on the screen in muted colours, typical of the Edwardian period.
If the audience didn't understand the difference between the two campaigns, one seeking the vote via democratic means in Parliament (the Suffragists, led by Millicent) and the Suffragettes (led by Emmeline Pankhurst) who campaigned with protests and violence, then they would have understood clearly by the end of the play.
Millicent (played by Heather Price), ladylike, gentle and well-spoken, contrasted wonderfully with Emmeline (Stephanie Stoddart) with her broad Manchester accent and fiery speeches. The frustration they each felt with the other’s methods, were well-represented. I also enjoyed the moment when the young Millicent (Beatrice Carpenter) was replaced by adult Millicent and was introduced with the lines “you look different!” ….”Well, I am older now!”
Played by pianist Bill Stoddart, the incidental music and the songs worked well, whether it was the stirring Suffrage movement’s anthem, March of the Women, newly-composed songs such Suffragist v Suffragette, or the traditional songs that were re-worded for this production, such as Burlington Bertie and My Old Man.
Although described in a court scene, we were thankfully spared scenes of brutality and forced feeding. Obviously, a reference was also made to the burning of the Bath Hotel in Felixstowe, the final act of the suffragettes before World War One put a stop to campaigning!
There are eleven in the cast but inevitably this was a play that had strong female characters, but the male members of the cast were essential in their supporting roles and also deserve praise.
I will think of this play when I next go to vote.... and I have already downloaded the final song, Standing on The Shoulders, which, after research, I have discovered was written in 1995 for the 75th anniversary of American women getting the vote.
Congratulations to Suzanne Hawkes and her cast and crew for another enjoyable evening that educated as well as entertained.
14/15th October 2018– Quay Place, Ipswich
16-18th October 2018 – St Peter and St Paul Church, Felixstowe
19th October 2018 – Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh.