To bring our plays to life, we find it invaluable to immerse ourselves in books, exhibitions, films and documentaries all about the era and context in which our stories are set. As we prepare to take to Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019 with Clouds, a story of women rising up in 1913, we thought now would be an excellent time to invite you to join us in reading up on this exciting era of early aviation and women’s suffrage!
For this first instalment of Time & Again Book Club, we decided to read historical novelist Rebecca Mascull’s The Wild Air. Like Clouds, the story is set in Edwardian England and follows a young woman with a burning desire to take to the skies in these new fangled flying machines.
Fiona Primrose who plays budding suffragette Sylvia Lovejoy in Clouds enjoyed an introduction to the world of early aviation.
‘It’s reminded me of what a huge event flying used to be. These days the novelty has worn off with thousands of successful flights happening every day, but back then it really was a spectacle and I’ll be looking to bring some of that excitement (and probably trepidation!) to our performance. I also loved the references to Shakespeare too.’
We’re no strangers to a bit of Shakespeare, our debut show Greyhounds was closely entwined with the bard’s Henry V. Thus, a reference or two will never go amiss with us.
Laura Crow was also particularly taken with the insight into flying the novel gave her. Laura is the writer and producer of Clouds and also plays Freddie Baxter, who is determined to become the first female pilot to fly around Britain in an air race so this was very pertinent to her character development!
‘The descriptions of early aviation and flight was so well researched and detailed. It definitely helped me think about what Freddie would go through each time she took her Blackburn up; the cold, the fear, the excitement, the tempestuous nature of early machinery!
I loved the descriptions of pre-war Hendon too. It really gave a window into the ‘last glorious summer’ type feeling of the Edwardian era.’
We recently visited Hendon on a trip to London’s RAF Museum. It was particularly exciting to see where parts of the novel were set and see photographs and memorabilia of Claude Grahame-White, who has quite the cameo in the book.
Catherine Cowdrey, who plays Lady Sara Fitzmaurice whose focus is on hosting the perfect garden party, found the characters a big part of the delight of the book.
‘Rebecca Mascull has done a fantastic job of creating a set of vibrant, strong female characters. Aviatrix Della definitely knows her own mind and is not afraid to break the rules. Similarly, her sisters and aunt manage to carve their way in what is perceived to be quite a repressed society. I think this is something we can definitely engage with and explore when we discuss our characters and their motives.’
Clouds director Jacqueline Wheble liked how the author evokes that feeling of being trapped in a small town like Cleethorpes with no future at the start of the novel. The way this then blossoms into the delight of kite flying with that special Auntie who opens up the world to her is really delightful. Cultivating convincing family relationships like this is something which will be key for Clouds as we meet Freddie and her brother Theodore who share a similarly special bond. Jac also thought that the character of the father in The Wild Air, Pop the damaged actor, is very well drawn, bitter and demanding, withholding praise to control his children. Rebecca Mascull’s characters are clearly very carefully considered.
All in all, this page-turner was a big hit with Time & Again Theatre Company’s bookworms. Rebecca Mascull paints a stunning picture of Edwardian England and its aviation scene, one which will certainly inform how we take our Clouds characters to the stage.
Have you read The Wild Air? Let us know what you enjoyed about the book if so! Keep your eyes peeled for the announcement of our next read very soon.