Director of York Settlement Community Player’s latest production Blue Stockings, Maggie Smales, tells in the programme that the play “serves as a gentle nudge to us all to keep going in our pursuit of a fair world”.
I would agree with her after being thoroughly engaged with playwright’s Jessica Swale’s emotionally and politically charged play.
Set at Girton College, Cambridge, home to Britain’s first female university students in 1896, the play followed four new Girton girls – outspoken astronomy student Tess Moffat played Charlotte Wood, Carolyn Addison played by Amelia Twiddle, Celia Willibond played by Kosi Carter and Maeve Sullivan played by Beth Stevens – through a tumultuous year.
I was stunned at the prejudices these girls had to overcome in their determination to graduate, a right that the privileged Trinity boys Ralph Mayhew played Thomas Barry, Lloyd played by Finn Ella, Holmes played by David Phillips and Edwards played by Matthew Dangerfield took for granted.
Kings College student Will Bennett played by East Riding’s Matthew Pattison, was much more aware of the inequality of the time.
Mr Banks, Mike Hickman, believed that women should be treated as equals and paid a high price for his loyalty.
A cast of 16, everyone played their part to make this a compelling piece of drama; you wanted to boo as Dr Maudsley, Paul Toy, arrogantly stated outrageous views in his lecture.
You felt the injustice of Maeve having to sacrifice her own dreams to help her family; Beryl Nairn playing diplomatic principal Elizabeth Welsh, was faced with making the heart-breaking decision, and such was the quality of the script and performance, you understood why she had to make that decision.
Passionate, but never preaching, this was a story told with wit and righteous indignation.
It runs at York Theatre Royal until Saturday March 11.