York Settlement Community Players’ latest play Blue Stockings. Directed by Maggie Smales, the play takes you into a world where equality is courageously being fought for and educational rights for women are on the brink of new heights.
Scarily ringing true to many of even today’s equality concerns, Blue Stockings reminds the more modern audience of the constant fight and passion fuelled in so many women and men of the time (1896) to reach the desired goal of uniting and making it a fair and legal process for a woman’s right to graduate.
Jessica Swales’ play follows Girton College’s first female university students as they make their journey into the typically male domain of education, revelling in the beauty of both the sciences and the arts.
The studio space is adorned with uniformed hats hanging with pride above the stage and the opening scene oozes excitement and that familiar feeling of learning and the newness of endless possibilities. The fresh-faced female students full of eagerness at the prospect of studying at such an esteemed place as Cambridge.
Amongst the female students are the harsh and cocky male counterparts, whose frequent mocking and oh so casual insults, remind the women that they are constantly fighting a battle despite their passion, hard work and determination.
However, the presence of the few male characters uniting with the women in their beliefs for equalit, are a beautiful addition to the cast and offer up the much needed hope and positivity required to balance the male viewpoint. The cast project a strong and united front, each character played with full commitment and energy, whether it be a strict bigoted lecturer, a budding scientist or a chirpy maid. Each and every single actor enables the audience to see their point of view and why they so strongly see and feel it.
This is a powerful cast and one so full of talent you can’t pick out particulars. The use of a capella singing during scene changes aid the productions flow beautifully and offer a nice interlude in between dialogue. The walking across the stage in blackouts from wing to wing is fairly amateur and could have been avoided to make a smoother more professional entrance to the studio, especially as the opening scene didn’t seem to actually require the use of the SL wing. Apart from this - and oddly not using the gorgeously handcrafted puppet as a regular device in the show - the execution of the performance was of professional quality.
The emotional and political importance of this play is presented with a crisp and inspirational voice which, as I left the auditorium, made me immensely proud of what the women before me worked so hard to achieve for future generations. The production’s enthusiasm and belief to continue fighting against prejudice, classism and equality is infectious and will linger with you long after you have left the theatre.
A strikingly high standard production that truly sets the bar for theatre in York , Blue Stockings is not to be missed. Catch Blue Stockings at York Theatre Royal’s Studio until Saturday 11 March.