Howard Assembly Room at Opera North, Leeds – until 2 December 2018
Reviewed By Dawn Smallwood
Not Such Quiet Girls, a contemporary piece of work, makes its world premiere and is part of Opera North’s Before War and After season to commemorate the centenary of the ending of the First World War.
Written by Jessica Walker and co-produced by both Opera North and the Leeds Playhouse Not Such Quiet Girls is about women experiencing the war first hand serving at the front. The story is told by three characters, Mary (Tara Divina), Tony (Cora Kirk) and Harry (Laura Prior) and they are supported by an all female Chorus of Opera North.
There isn’t a lot of text that commemorates solely on women and their war efforts at the front during the First World War. Walker works innovatively and creatively with what is available and incorporates the experiences into this production. This includes women working as volunteer ambulance drivers and experiencing same sex relationships though at the time hidden from public consciousness. Not to mention the freedom they had from serving at the front abroad and away from home and its socialistic expectations and responsibilities. Not Such Quiet Girls explore these experiences with the three characters working as volunteers and a passionate relationship between Tony (Kirk) and Harry (Prior) emerges even if it’s constrained with “consciousness” and “duty”.
Opera North is known for its musical and operatic ingenuity and creativity and it was the case here with Joseph Atkins’ cleverly arranged music hall styled musical numbers. The numbers are performed beautifully by all the cast which fully supports the story being told. However it is felt that the spoken texts between each of the songs could have been projected more with appropriate soundscapes and movements.
The production, under the direction of Jacqui Honess-Martin, is well staged and intimate with its war costumes, courtesy of Polly Sullivan. The space is well used with the action happening in the middle of the hall as opposed on a traditional stage at the front and the production is certainly well co-ordinated and delivered.
Opera North ought to be commended for their creativity in bringing a variety of collaborative productions on stage and link to themes and past events that significantly matter to the past, present and certainly in the future. Not Such Quiet Girls along with Kevin Puts’ Silent Night are appropriate choices this season for commemorating the 1918 Armistice.