Emmeline Review

The Cockpit Theatre – until 14 November 2021

Reviewed By Emily Cliff


When we talk about our heritage we often jump to our ancestral backgrounds – things that relate to our culture and the mosaic of tiles that make up who we are as people. Women have never had the easy end of the bargain, and we have always had to fight hard and strong for our rights. One of the many rights we take for granted today is our right to vote and without the heroic, courageous and valiant efforts of the Pankhurst family girls led by their mother Emmeline, the lives we lead as free women today would probably not exist.

Playwright Beatrice Hyde has captured the pain, struggles and persistence that faced Emmeline Pankhurst in the wake of the first wave of feminism. The story has a truly captivating essence which is brought to life by clever stage designs, costumes and fantastic performances by a fantastic cast. The road to getting women the vote we know is not a short one, yet somehow Beatrice has managed to include well over four decades of struggle and protest into a single night of theatre, without just bypassing important details. There is a lot to cover in a show that covers such issues, yet Beatrice managed to cover it all without giving too much or too little time to any issue covered.

The leading lady of the operation herself, Emmeline Pankhurst, played by National Theatre trained Georgie Rhys, was portrayed in a light that started motherly but sooner got more political as the show went on. Georgie Rhys captured her essence wholeheartedly and ran with it throughout the entire show. Her delivery was powerful and the message was abundantly clear, we are women and we deserve equality. The fiery enthusiasm was also captured in her daughter Christabel Pankhurst, played by Lily-Fleur Bradbury, who was filled with a feminist rage that soared and lit up her performance. The lighting and the costumes displayed throughout this play added to the accuracy of the historical context this play already had.

Much like any period drama, some of the events taking place have been taken in dramatic licence. However, the intensity of the family squabbles and arguments were just adding fuel to the already brightly burning bonfire of fierceness this play exudes. If anything this gave the play a more relatable tone and touch. The display of police brutality and lack of help from politicians was a scene that was all too familiar in today’s society but highlighted the struggles women have and still do face.

Overall this play was brilliant from its costumes to its political messaging and is perfect for any young budding feminist to learn their heritage. Humour was sprinkled throughout at appropriate moments but didn’t change the direction or tone of the play too immensely. This play highlights the importance of having values, and how hard it is to stick to them in trying times (brilliantly highlighted in the character of Sylvia Pankhurst. This was a fantastic debut for Beatrice Hyde with writing on par with that of the National Theatre. Compelling, emotional and captivating, this show deserves a bigger stage and I hope to see it on one soon