Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton

11/11/2015 - 14/11/2015

Production Details

Girton is the first college in Britain to admit women. The girls risk their reputations for their education. They study ferociously and match their male peers grade for grade. Yet, when the men graduate, the girls leave empty-handed, with nothing but the stigma of being a ‘blue stocking’ – an unnatural, educated woman – to their names. They are unqualified and unmarriageable. Principal Mrs Welsh is determined to win the girls the right to graduate (“degrees by degrees”). Can they persuade the University?

Jessica Swale’s Blue Stockings follows the Girton girls, their teachers and their opponents over this tumultuous year, in their fight to change the history of education.

Suitable for ages 10+

Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts
11-14 November 2015, 7:30pm  
14 November 2015, 2:00pm
Tickets: $15 full, $10 student/ concession
The direct booking link to the ticketing site is:
$15 full; $10 students/concession.
$5 of each ticket sold will go to the Himalayan Trust.

The company consists of Creative and Performing Arts scholars, from the disciplines of Theatre, Music, Dance, Creative Technologies and Computer Graphic Design, alongside university colleagues and community actors. 

See home page for comments about the play from some of the actors involved.

CAST, in order of appearance:
Dr Maudsley, renowned psychiatrist - David Lumsden
Mrs Welsh, Mistress of Girton College - Sara Young

Tess Moffat, Girton student - Missy Mooney (11th, 13th and matinee 14th)
                                          - Alice Kennedy (12th and 14th)
Maeve Sullivan, Girton student - Anna Mahon 
Celia Willbond, Girton student - Cian Gardner 
Carolyn Addison, Girton student - Gwen Lyon 
Mr Banks, Trinity and Girton lecturer - Conor Maxwell
Edwards, Trinity student - Conor Gyde 
Lloyd, Trinity student - Caleb Coffey 
Holmes, Trinity student - Calum Hughes 
Ralph Mayhew, Trinity student - Philip Garrity 
Trinity student - Liam Hinton
Miss Blake, Girton College lecturer - Kirstine Moffat
Miss Bott, chaperone - Fiona Martin
Librarian - Clive Lamdin 
Minnie, maid - Taila Burton
Will Bennett, Kings student - Jonathan Eyers 
Billy Sullivan, Maeve's brother - Caleb Coffey 
Professor Anderson, Trinity lecturer - David Lumsden 
Professor Collins, Trinity lecturer - Nicholas Bourchier
Professor Radleigh, Trinity board member - Clive Lamdin
Maid - Natalie Foster
Mr Peck, maintenance man - Nicholas Bourchier
Mrs Lindley, shopkeeper - Gaenor Stoate
Waiter - Liam Hinton
Lady - Lily Empson
Husband - Jeremy Tomkins
Understudies - Taila Burton, Lily Empson, Liam Hinton. 

Creative and production team:
Direction and design: Gaye Poole
Production manager: Gaye Poole
Costume design and construction: Cherie Cooke
Stage management: Jeremy Tomkins
ASM/Production assistance: Natalie Foster
Lighting design: Andrew Hall
Lighting operation: Andrew Hall or Dion Rutherford
Composer/Sound operation: Sam Franicevic
Props management: Samantha Rowe
Wardrobe management: Amy Thomas
Graphic design: Natalie Trow
Marketing : Natalie Foster, Alice Kennedy, Gaye Poole, Brendan Theodore
Stills photography: Michael Smith   

Theatre ,

A most uplifting story

Review by Jan-Maree Franicevic 12th Nov 2015

I always enjoy the beautiful walk from the car park to the Gallagher Playhouse at the University of Waikato. Tonight I am also excited because I am seeing a co-production between the Sir Edmund Hilary Scholarship Programme (SEHSP) and Carving in Ice Theatre, the latter of which I am a big fan. Director Gaye Poole has done some admirable work in the past so I am particularly keen to see what she does with this lot. 

The SEHSP celebrates ten years in 2015. The programme is a University of Waikato initiative which recognizes exceptional talent and leadership; scholarship recipients excel in academia, sport or creative and performing arts. Tonight is the turn of the latter: a handful of Hilary Scholars perform in this tribute to the plight of women in education. 

Blue Stockings is set in England. It tells the story of Tess Moffat (Missy Mooney) and her three pals Carolyn (Gwen Lyon), Celia (Cian Gardner) and Maeve (Anna Mahon) who are studying the sciences at Girton College. It’s 1898 and the four girls are involved in study commensurate to their male counterparts at Cambridge. Unlike their peers though, they will not graduate their course of study and their study will not be recognised: at this time it was considered un-natural for a woman to be educated; that in essence she was denying her birthright, of motherhood and a family.

I like that Poole has asked all of the performers to note their education and qualifications in their bio notes: a fitting nod to the largely overlooked work of the women of this time who campaigned and rallied for change.

The auditorium is packed; we are like sardines (obediently doing as asked and leaving no gaps between parties of theatregoers). The lights come up on a simple, bare stage. Books hang overhead – neat idea (designer also Gaye Poole) – and thanks to stunning work from the lighting designer Andrew Hall, we see that we are at the train station in Cambridge. New students are arriving for the year. So our story begins.

Our female students are outnumbered by male students. Certainly whilst on their own they might be a boisterous bunch of women, they are the pale wallflowers when invited to a co-ed lecture. Unsurprisingly, when Tess (on whom the story centres) makes a comment, she is made to look quite the harpie as she becomes increasingly frustrated and combative in the attempt to make her point. She is duly ejected from the room. 

Yes, Blue Stockings is a credible portrayal of what I imagine it was like. The cast of women is all-superb. Girton College’s Head Mistress Mrs Welsh (played immaculately by Sara Young) is the epitome of quiet progress, hoping that the change she quietly craves might be achieved in the most ladylike manner possible. It is through her character that I find the most sympathy; it’s hard to force a movement while sitting ans smiling prettily, and not upsetting the apple cart of male supremacy. I am at all times aware that we pants-wearing, educated ladies of the modern age have made quite a journey, and one that began well before we won the right to vote. 

The Cambridge chaps (there is no better word for them) bear a striking resemblance to the Cambridge chaps I met whilst living in London. They are brainy and wet; academically arrogant but at the same time emotionally juvenile and soporific. I delight in despising them. Hats off to bolshie, ballsy, arrogant Lloyd (masterful work from Caleb Coffey) and the jelly-legged brain with a heart of gold, Kings student Will (nice work from Jonathan Eyers), who make it easy to write all of the men in the play right off my slate. Oh the ignorance! 

As we queue for wine at interval, I remark to Katherine, my companion for the evening, that the ninety-minute first act means it will be a late finish for a school night. She is unbothered by that fact: “I am really quite enjoying it.”

So as we settle in for the second act, I make myself as comfortable as possible (the Playhouse seating is effective but not the easiest to relax into). Here is where I want to see a pick up in the pace of the story; it is building to a crescendo nicely but not very swiftly. At times the energy on stage flags a little and I wonder too whether the cast might benefit from a sudden ‘shot in the arm’ of some kind. They do well to keep themselves contained and keep moving forward in the mire of a wordy script. The minimal staging means there is a lot of standing about, which I am not a great fan of. At times I feel there may be some real benefit in a variation in the physical levels of our players.

The story is touching, if verbose, and certainly as we applaud the ensemble at the end there is vim in the audience. Comments around me are favourable and with them I do detect some murmurs of relief. I dare say that after another 70 more minutes sat in my Playhouse chair, I am relieved to not have to spend another minute in mine!

I often say that a good show will erase any discomfort I might be feeling and sweep me off my feet and happily into the story. At times I am right there: our players are well rehearsed, confident and easy at all times. I love it when a cast just works together and this one is perfection. Gaye Poole has concocted and melded quite an ensemble.

All that I am underwhelmed with is the pace, and perhaps now that any first night jitters are dispensed with, a swifter energy will invigorate the season. I do hope so, as this is a most uplifting story of my forebears’ journey into equity in education, which I feel now, I should recognise and value even more so than the work of the suffragettes in securing my right to be heard. Next month I graduate from a small course of academic study; something I will enjoy all the more for having seen Blue Stockings tonight.

I think Poole has the makings of a great show here, if she can fire up the story a little and move it on with some energy. I encourage you to go along and see it, and maybe take a wee cushion for the sake of your backside. 


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