Blue Stockings

Date 10th March 2022
Society The Southwick Players
Venue The Barn Theatre, Southwick
Type of Production Play
Director Harry Atkinson
Producer Nigel Bubloz
Written By Jessica Swale

Report

Author: Lance Milton

Jessica Swales's ‘Blue Stockings’, first performed at the Globe in 2013, is based in a Cambridge campus that students today could scarcely envisage.  A university soaked in masculine superiority: resolute to keep women out.  The female protagonists at Girton are spurned and ejected from lectures as they fight for the woman’s right to knowledge, and the female students' right to graduate.  This production highlighted the chilling realism of the Victorian era.  The male students are repulsed at seeing a woman riding a bicycle around Cambridge.

Bonny Hazelwood as Lloyd is particularly hilarious as (she) bumbles and attempts to belittle the female students playing the part with gusto and manages to be so boyish with it.  Yet there are other scenes in which the male reaction to female students is not comic but disturbing: H Reeves performances, both in the opening sequence and generally as Maudsley, are driven by a distorted misogynist logic which is almost terrifying to watch; but also has the audience shrinking in our seats. Speaking of talented actors, praise is due to Naomi Crisp (Tess) and Summer Knights (Celia). Their conversation is dynamic, full of pace and their more subdued exchanges they manage pretty perfectly the tonal shifts and the rising conflict until Celia drops off into pleading: “Don’t throw this away, Tess. Not when it’s only just started”.

Lauren Whedbee (Carolyn), alongside H Reeves and Pete Plumb (as Collins) are wonderful in the examination scene, running through complex physics with an impressive confidence and engaging poise and maintaining the scene’s pace so that the audience can hardly pause for breath before the emotional ending.  Jordan Bamford (Maeve) cuts the dystopian inequality perfectly when having to depart to look after her family, as the girl who is without funding behind her.  Henry Maxwell (Will) and Harry Rippon (Ralph) both put in convincing performances in their conflict over Tess.  David Balfe (Mr Banks), Liz Gibson (Mrs Welsh) and Katie Donegan (Miss Blake) brought subtle pause to the subtext of the suffragette movement, denouncing the conflict for the good of Girton.

Swales’s ‘Blue Stockings’ tells an essential story in the progress of our universities, and director Harry Atkinson and producer Nigel Bubloz, armed with a talented group of actors, did a praiseworthy job of bringing it to life in this Southwick Players production.  Simple sets, lighting and sound highlighted the excellent properties, costumes, wigs and makeup wonderfully.  The programme was simple but  most effective.