Out of the Cage

Date 10th November 2018
Society High Tor Players
Venue The Whitworth Centre
Type of Production Play
Director Alicia Bloundel


Author: Joyce Handbury

Out of the Cage is a play written by Alex McSweeney. It is set in 1916 and tells the story of female munition workers in their pursuit of equal rights and equal pay. Their choice was simple: stand up to the belligerent attitude of male workers, bosses and an intractable government or forever be seen as second-hand citizens. 

The play is being delivered by High Tor Players in four different venues over four evenings - no mean feat! It is quite understandable therefore that the whole play is delivered solely by the use of props. I suppose this did limit the atmospheric and ambience of it but it no way did it distract from the performance, as the small cast of eight managed to bring to life, in varying ways, the various settings. I went to see it at The Whitworth Centre where the play was performed in a wonderfully grand Victorian Hall with the audience being seated on two sides of the performance area. 

The all-female cast, without exception, put in excellent performances. Jane was the ring leader come chair person of this small group trying to organise them into some kind of strike action and getting fellow workers to join in with them. She was the driving force behind the ‘rebellion’ and Liz McKenzie portrayed the diversity of the character from her strong-mindedness, her sympathetic nature, her so keen sense of justice in such a perceptive and quietly but determined way, it was just perfect. The outspoken, down to earth, calling a spade a spade Irish dissident Nelly, was superbly played by Susan Deveney as was the role of autocratic and do-gooder Nancy, by Zoe Hoyle. The spats between her and Nelly were sublime and although Nancy seemed to have great sympathy for the cause and with Dee’s situation, sadly, she did show her true colours in the end by totally talking down to the ‘girls’. Pauline Revill’s depiction of Dee, the mother of six coping with a chronic illness but so determined to carry on working, was first-rate. I do hope that she didn’t end up with a sore throat after all that coughing! Some light relief came from Carrie and Annie, younger workers at the factory, who were so full of life singing and larking about even amid the dreadful conditions. Annie played by Rachel Callen and Carrie by Alicia Bloundele (also the Director) were absolutely terrific. The characters both had their problems but this didn’t get in the way of them having a good time until near the end when Carrie has ‘money’ and wants Annie to leave with her. Eva Boulton was delightful as Lil Ginny and good support came from Sue Morgan in the dual roles of Ol Mum and Mrs Billings. I loved the singing, especially that by Carrie and Annie, and the scene where they were actually in the factory and miming the various processes was well executed. The costumes were very much in keeping with the times and the sound effects were most effective. At the very end of the play the terrible statistics and outcomes following the war were so profoundly and soberly told to us by each of the characters. When you think of it, we haven’t moved on an awful lot from those times as we still have inequality in both work and pay, wars are still happening and many women are ‘still in cages’ around the world! A very thought provoking play and so well performed by this very talented cast.