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Print Version

Written and Performed by Anne Chamberlain
Directed by KC Kelly
Produced by Ms Chamberlain Presents

at Hannah Playhouse, Wellington
From 22 May 2014 to 24 May 2014
[1hr 10mins (no interval)]

Reviewed by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media], 23 May 2014
originally published in The Dominion Post

The suffragette movement at the end of the 19th century brought to the fore a number of women who made a name for themselves championing their cause. 

In the UK there was Marie Stopes with her pioneering work on birth control, in America Alice Paul fighting for women's rights and here in NZ our own Kate Sheppard leading the fight for women to get the vote.

There were no doubt many others but one such person whose name is not widely known but whose cause has become internationally known today was Eglantyne Jebb, the founder of the Save The Children Fund.

And it is the life of this person that Anne Chamberlain has loving brought to the stage in her play Eglantyne.

Thoroughly researched from Eglantyne Jebb's letters, articles, speeches and diary entries Chamberlain, looking every part the suffragette, takes her audience through in chronological order the numerous incidences and the highs and lows of Eglantyne's life.

An unusual name, meaning “prickly briar rose”, it soon becomes apparent that this sums up well the nature of the person.

At the end of the First World War, Eglantyne, along with her sister Dorothy, set up the Fight the Famine Council, as a pressure group to persuade the British government to end the blockade in Eastern Europe where millions of children were dying of starvation.

This then lead to the formation of Save The Children Fund, and after a public rally in the Royal Albert Hall in May 1919 the funded was launched.

The organisation continued to grow over the decades until it is now recognised as one of the major aid organisations in the world.

In her later life Eglantyne, while residing in Switzerland, became concerned with children's rights and developed the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.  This was adopted by the UN and as of 1989, has become the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

But there was also profound sadness in her life which Chamberlain brings out with great humanity.

Death's in her family and relationships that never turned into marriage created great despair at times and often brought about long periods of loneliness.

Through Chamberlain's studied and heartfelt portrayal all these aspects of Eglantyne's life are brought out.

This is no great over exuberant performance of a ranting activist, but a simple and gentle presentation of quiet, unassuming but determined women on a mission that is engaging, informative, and very entertaining. 
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See also reviews by:
 John Smythe
 Hugh McCafferty
 Lindsay Clark
 Ngaire Riley