What I’ve Learnt About Society’s Views on Women From Walking Round Edinburgh Fringe Dressed as a Suffragette

What I’ve learnt about society’s views on women from walking round Edinburgh Fringe dressed as a suffragette.

IMG_20190809_100313_373

Firstly, I feel incredibly proud to wear my sash. It’s a constant reminder of the real women who – however controversial – fought for a very basic right; that women should have an equal voice and say as men. They were determined, brave, unwavering, and consistently belittled, beaten, arrested, mocked and shamed for simply wanting to give women a voice.

Whilst we’re not facing a fraction of the hatred heaped upon our Edwardian sisters, we are still getting heckled, called out and challenged every single day. Just yesterday we had:

“Ridiculous!”

“No, no, no, no, no. Dreadful idea!”

“Bloody socialists!”

“That’s worked out well!”

Some of these comments are dressed up as wit, some less so, but there’s an uneasiness behind each negative reaction. In 2019 people still find the concept of women needing to fight for their rights as just a little bit of a joke. Don’t be silly love. You’ve no need to go on about any of that any more.

Our male cast members, particularly, come in for a lot of curiosity, incredulity and scrutiny. Fair enough, a group of women might parade around as silly suffragettes but surely a man can’t be standing there holding a ‘deeds not words’ banner?

“Men can’t be suffragettes, can they?”

“Don’t you mean, votes for men?”

This is a pervading attitude, one that seems to think that only women can support the rights of women, only women should have an interest in feminism. And this is a big problem. If people only care about issues that 100% directly effect themselves, it doesn’t leave much scope for creating a better world.

IMG_20190711_230953_971.jpg

On the flip side, we’re getting a huge positive reaction from young women and girls (and a wonderful young father with his baby daughter). You can see visible excitement pass their faces as we stalk past with our sashes and banners.

“Yassssss!”

“Votes for women!”

The image of these militant freedom fighters resonates hugely with them. But why? It’s been over 100 years since Emmeline Pankhurst and co. chained themselves to the railings and threw bricks through windows. You could argue that suffragettes are no longer relevant. But perhaps, just perhaps, that struggle to have your voice heard still rings true for many women today.

In the arts world, there is a huge lack of female writers, producers, and directors getting their work made and recognised. Though, not for a want of willing and able candidates.

Even here at Fringe, according to The Stage, men earn 60% more than women. (https://www.thestage.co.uk/news/2019/men-earned-60-more-than-women-at-last-years-edinburgh-fringe-study-claims/)

This year the #womenoffringe group have been truly excellent, offering support and a platform for the women coming up to Edinburgh. But the fact remains, that it’s still sadly necessary to have a specific group supporting women. Our voices still get lost, talked over, patronized.

So pardon me if we continue “engaging in unedifying conversations about the suffragette movement.” There’s still a long way to go.

As Emmeline said:

“I incite this meeting to rebellion!”

And that’s my call to you. Support female theatre, support female writers. Listen to what we say and recognise that there’s still plenty we have to fight for. Because, if the reaction to our costumes is anything to go by, wanting equal rights is still an act of rebellion!

received_639519119893293

 

 

 

Flying Lesson

Laura, the writer, producer, and actor playing Winifred Baxter in Time & Again’s latest show, Clouds, is taking to the skies in the lead up to the Edinburgh Fringe to experience what it’s really like to wield the controls of a plane. The only problem – she’s absolutely terrified of flying!
Last Tuesday she managed to conquer her fear and head up to the clouds. Here’s what she had to say about the experience:

Time _ Again 10 - Print Size

On Tuesday I had my first ever flying lesson.

This was a HUGE deal for me as I’m totally afraid of flying. Even on big passenger jets, which I use as little as possible, I’m stressing and feeling sick and clutching at the arm rests at the slightest movement. I’ve even been known to call out loudly, “are we going down?”, which probably doesn’t make for a particularly fun flight if you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself sitting next to me..
So going up in something much smaller, and actually taking over the controls, was filling me with ‘you’re going to die’ level of fear. But it was a really important challenge for me to undertake. My character in Clouds is a daring female pilot and I want to be able to do her justice. I feel I can’t play such a pioneer without experiencing what it’s actually like to control a plane myself.

The lesson had already been rescheduled twice due to low clouds (ironic!) but luckily on Tuesday the weather was clear, bright and not too windy. I arrived at Barton and met my instructor. I was given a headset with a little microphone to wear during the flight so we could hear each other. Not going to lie, it felt a bit like being on TV or in a film (nerd). We went to the control tower to write down the details of our plane and which runway we’d be using. There’s actually plenty of traffic up in the sky, although it looks pretty empty and peaceful from the ground, so it’s important to get these details and times to avoid collisions. Then it was time to get in…

66306865_764589720601983_591554396957966336_n

The plane felt quite flimsy. It was much smaller than a car; a little box under big white wings with two seats side by side. The inside was a bit car-like I suppose, with windows either side and a sun shield you could fold down. I was instructed to strap myself in and give the door a good thump to make sure it was firmly shut.
There were lots of checks to perform before we started up: dials had to be in the right place, switches had to be tested, seat belts checked. Then it was safe to start up the engine.

It wasn’t actually as loud as I was expecting (though I don’t know what I was expecting… a Spitfire? A Jet? Who knows with my mind at this point). On the ground, you control the steering with foot pedals which is a bit mind bending to get your head around. You want to use the control wheel, like you would if you were driving a car, but instead it’s all in the feet. I was told to direct us out so I took up the pedals. Our trundles down to and away from the runway were a bit wobbly but I did my best.

65711234_764589743935314_3023357299335888896_n

The engine was revved up a bit to help us take off. It felt like we weren’t going fast enough to ever get up into the sky, but of course we did. The going up wasn’t so bad. It was the levelling off. Every tiny pocket of air, every little rise or drop felt hugely amplified and sent a burst of fear shooting through me. It would be calm for a stretch but then there’d come another burst of the plane bumping and wobbling in the air. This feeling never eased off through our time in the air and was the worst part of the experience for me. Luckily, my instructor was lovely and told me lots about the plane and the area we were flying over (towards Blackpool) to distract me.

The view was AMAZING. That was definitely my favourite part of the flight. The north west is actually really green! You notice that there’s actually far more fields stretching out around you than built up areas when you’re up that high! We flew over the abandoned Camelot theme park which looked particularly captivating and poignant, the rusting rollercoaster track slowly decaying in the bright sunshine.

66096448_764589777268644_2150650086869172224_n

Taking the controls was also terrifying. The first time my instructor passed over control, I passed it back in about 2 seconds flat with the professional exclamation, “I don’t like it, take it away!” But I pushed myself to have three attempts. The plane really responds to the smallest movement. It was a lot trickier than you might think just keeping it level (though the instructor made it look ridiculously easy!)

I have to say, although I was so anxious, the time passed pretty quickly. Soon we were turning round and heading back towards the airfield. I think landing was the part I’d been dreading the most but actually it was fine. We did a large rectangular circuit over the airfield before slowly descending. It felt almost like gliding (though before anyone asks, if you ever think I’m going up in something without an engine, you can think again). It was a BIG relief to be back on firm ground. There were more checks to complete upon landing before heading back to the aircraft’s stand.

65988843_764589680601987_975281141848211456_n

I felt relieved and elated and sweaty. People kept asking if I’d enjoyed my flight. I’m not sure enjoyed is the correct word. It was definitely a great experience that I’m so glad I managed to persuade myself to do. But there was also so much fear and anxiety, not just during the flight, but for the days leading up to it.
Once I’d handed in my headset and collected my certificate, I headed over to the Trafford Centre and treated myself to an immense Belgian waffle. The sugar was very much needed, partly because I’d not eaten much all day and partly because I was buzzing so much!

65996247_764589803935308_748739380968947712_n

The lesson taught me a lot and gave me plenty to think about regarding early aviation (such as in my character’s day). The smaller, slower planes must have been so wobbly. The slightest gust of wind must have been catastrophic. And the pilot’s themselves must have been so fearless to the point of being a bit mad! Imagine doing something so risky for the first time, without an established set of rules and guidelines. Aviators wouldn’t have known what to check before and after take off until something went wrong on someone else’s flight and they learned from the consequences.
On top of that, if you were a woman back then, you were also fighting against everyone’s prejudices and expectation that you were going to fail at such an ‘inappropriate’ endeavour. Truly, I have so much for those early pioneers of aviation, especially the women.

You can catch Clouds at The Pankhurst Centre in Manchester as part of the GM Fringe on Thursday 25th July and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Friday 2nd – Saturday 17th August at theSpace on the Mile.

Time & Again Book Club: The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

Wild Air

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.

fionaFiona 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.

lauraLaura 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.

catherineCatherine 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.

Rural Touring in Kent & East Sussex!

For the past month Time & Again have had a wonderful time performing our show, Greyhounds, for rural communities in Kent & East Sussex, in association with Applause Rural Touring! This was our first experience of rural touring and life on the road, and it couldn’t have been more fun! We loved getting the chance to perform Greyhounds in actual village halls as the first act of the show is based in the fictitious Shuttlefield Village Hall so it leant itself perfectly to small local venues.

We were very excited to hit the road in our trusty VW Crew Van!

During our first leg of shows we were based in the lovely town of Tonbridge, near Tunbridge Wells. Our apartment was really nice and just a stone’s throw from the ruins of a castle (how great is that?) We explored Tonbridge during our time off, visiting a cat cafe for hot chocolate with some feline friends and having drinks in local pub The Humphrey Bean! We even managed to make it over to Tunbridge Wells for a wander along the Pantiles.

Kent gives the perfect G&T based advice…

Our shows were at Blackham Village Hall, Crowhurst Village Hall, Bredhurst Village Hall and Shoreham Village Hall (which was also near the Shoreham Air Museum. Obviously we had to drop in for a cup of tea and chat with the museum’s owner Geoff!) All the promoters made us feel very welcome, providing us with copious cups of tea and biscuits, and even a full picnic lunch.

Give us food and we’re happy. We like food.

It’s been really interesting having to adapt the show to different spaces and stages, with the entrances and exits all in different places. We’ve also become very quick at packing and unpacking all of our set into the back of the van! We also felt very proud of ourselves for cooking up a good meal before each of the shows (#adulting)!

Shoreham had pictures in the village hall from their VE Day parade!

We’ve just finished our final show at the 1000-year-old Allsaints Church in Allhallows. It was a wonderful way to end the tour. We got so many feedback cards filled in with wonderful comments and the promoters even bought us fish and chips for dinner!

We got to visit some really beautiful locations.

We’ve had so much fun on the road, a lot of laughs and hi-jinks, and it was amazing to perform our show to such friendly, engaged audiences. Thank you so much to Applause Rural Touring for organising everything – we hope you’ll have us back again soon! We’d love to return to Kent and East Sussex next year with brand new show Clouds!

Letters from the Home Front – Edinburgh Diary Day 12

Sunday 12th August 2018

It was here. Our day off had arrived. And boy was I glad not to be flyering on this wet and gloomy Sunday. Even the usually wildly vocal seagulls had decided to have a lie in and avoid the vicious downpour.

Fiona headed out first for a day of bookish fun. First stop for her was a much-longed for lounge in a coffee shop with her poor slightly neglected novel. A few chapters down, she headed to Lighthouse Books (Edinburgh’s radical bookshop). She perused the tomes on offer with reckless abandon, finally deciding upon an anthology of short stories about political protests.

After lunch with a fellow-Fringing friend, she caught The Red Shoes by Young Pleasance. The show is based upon a Hans Christian Andersen and is brought to life through song and dance. The Red Shoes was full of gorgeous costumes, exciting dance and innovative lighting.

Meanwhile, director Jac and techie Paul pootled on down to Stockbridge market to soak up the hipster vibes (and the torrential rain). They described the vibe as ‘very Chorlton’ for all you Manchester folks in the know. They then spent the afternoon with family (as Paul hails from right here in the land of haggis), celebrating a birthday and stuffing themselves with what I’m told was truly delightful trifle.

Last but certainly not least, Laura, Tim and I had a very exciting day at the ZOO! We set the tone on the way there by cobbling together a makeshift playlist of animal themed songs from what we already had downloaded on Spotify (Octopus’ Garden, Shakira’s She Wolf and I am the Walrus all featured). The zoo was everything I dreamed of and more despite the downpour. Highlights for me were the proud penguin parade, the pygmy hippos and the panda gorging himself on bamboo.

We were all completely tuckered out but the day wasn’t over yet as we had tickets for three shows in quick succession in the evening. We refuelled with a quick and delicious supper of minestrone soup and crackers. Pea-hater Tim left all of his peas in the bowl which isn’t very inkeeping with the wartime spirit. Wasting rations, we shan’t be having any of that!

First show of the evening was Bugle Boys at Assembly Hall. This drag tribute to our beloved Andrews Sisters was full of sass, songs and sequins. It was jolly good fun and the Bugle Boys’ harmonies were so on point.

Next up, we hot-footed it to The Stand to finally catch a bit of the stand-up that Edinburgh Fringe is so renowned for. We took in Alun Cochrun’s show. Depressingly relatable was his observation about having to turn up the TV when the crisps you’re munching on are too loud. A crisis I face on an almost daily basis.

Our final show of the night was late-night Showstopper! The talented cast come up with a musical on the fly based on audience suggestions. We were treated to a Baywatch musical in the style of Hamilton, Mamma Mia, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Book of Mormon. It’s incredible to see the musicians pick up on the melodies the cast throw out and the ever-perfect harmonies. Seriously, don’t miss these guys if you’re at the Fringe. I could go see it every day!

For a day off, we really did jam-pack it full of activities, but you’ve got to cease those opportunities when at the Fringe!

Yours,

Catherine

(Greyhounds’ Ruby Winters)

Letters from the Home Front – Edinburgh Diary Day 11

Saturday 11th August 2018

Amazingly, given the fact that half the Greyhounds stayed up partying and singing Hey Mr Miller in the local takeaway until the small hours the night before, we actually managed to get out of bed on Saturday morning and have a somewhat productive day. I even met a friend for some much needed coffee and managed to have a full conversation with her like a functioning human being in what was a truly Oscar worthy performance. In other award worthy performances, apparently Catherine did a stunning rendition of Cool and the Gang’s ‘Celebrate’ in the shower, but sadly I was either out or dead to the world so missed it. Here’s hoping that there will be a reprise!

Most of the rest of our day was pretty much par for the course – flyering, flyering, eating, and more flyering. We managed to get another slot on the stage after a minor drama in which it appeared that a fire engine was going to attempt to drive up the Royal Mile – you know, that completely deserted and never at all busy road that doesn’t have 3 street stages on it. Once the stage had been moved a whole foot to the right (presumably to try and accommodate this fire engine that must have been lost), we treated the Mile to some jolly 40s tunes whilst Jac did a sterling job of rallying the crowds and throwing a few era-appropriate shapes with Tim and some eager spectators.

We didn’t have long to revel in the swing-dance spirit, as Jac, Paul, Laura and Tim headed off to catch a performance of the Dad’s Army Radio Show, accompanied by a spot of afternoon tea. Laura was very cynical going in as she’s a lifelong fan of the TV show. However, they perfectly captured the essence of the show from the incidental music used during the scene changes to the delivery of over 15 different characters between two actors (including the famous seven). David Benson’s Sergeant Wilson and Jack Lane’s Private Pike were absolutely spot on. The team were somewhat perturbed by the lack of cake but the scones were absolutely delightful.

cakes

Anthony’s last Edinburgh Fringe performance with us went down a treat with our lovely audience. We’re very grateful that he was able to step in and do such a cracking job with the part, even after we nearly broke him the night before by making him come to the Hive (til 5!) with us.

A few well-earned drinks in the bar later, and it was home time for some of us early birds (me, who’d been a little bit too much of a night owl the night before…). However, the Space launch party beckoned for those feeling rather more lively amongst us. Space lanyards proudly on display, the rest of team Greyhounds went to dance the night away to the marvellous live band and celebrated what has so far been a truly spiffing Fringe experience.

Until next time,

Fiona

(Nancy Wilde – Greyhounds)

 

Reviews from the Home Front – Dulce Et Decorum Est: The Unknown Soldiers

Dulce Et Decorum Est: The Unknown Soldiers by Polymorph Theatre was a captivating two-person historical drama performed at theSpace Triplex. The year is 1941, two strangers are united as they take shelter from an air raid. Tommy is a World War One veteran; haunted by his past as he saw the rest of his regiment wiped out in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Ellen, a young American woman, is awaiting word of her fiancé who has gone to war. They confide in each other in this confined space, sharing their stories and slowly realising that they may have more of a connection than they thought.

dulcea5.jpg

The premise of the play piqued our interest, rocketing the show to the top of our illustrious ‘shows to see’ board before we even realised we were next-door neighbours as well as WW2-show-buddies! The interweaving stories of the two World Wars is something we’ve not seen explored in any other play here at Edinburgh Fringe. It was a really interesting to hear the two experiences compared and contrasted and the characters’ perspectives on the other’s experiences.

Emilie Maybank (Ellen) did a wonderful job of capturing and portraying the feeling of being the one left behind and the agony of not knowing the fate of a loved one. Meanwhile, Jan van der Black gave a powerful and emotional performance as Tommy. Particularly poignant was his tale of going over the top with his pals at the Somme. You could truly believe that he had been there and seen the horrors of war.

The theatre space lent itself well to the setting of a make-shift shelter, with its low ceiling and intimate seating. The set design was simple yet effective, with period appropriate props pulled out of an up-turned vintage tea chest (almost identical to the one tucked away in our Greyhounds set!).

I’d be really interested in seeing more work from Polymorph Theatre in the future as Dulce Et Decorum Est: The Unknown Soldiers was such an evocative piece of historical theatre with beautiful detail. Jolly good show chaps!