Lodge Theatre, Geraldine

01/05/2014 - 01/05/2014

Hannah Playhouse, Cnr Courtenay Place & Cambridge Terrace, Wellington

22/05/2014 - 24/05/2014

4th Wall Theatre, New Plymouth

10/07/2014 - 10/07/2014

The Playhouse, 198 Church St, Timaru

02/05/2014 - 03/05/2014

Rangi Ruru Girls School, Merivale Lane, Christchurch

08/05/2014 - 10/05/2014

BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

22/10/2019 - 26/10/2019

Production Details

EGLANTYNE is a one woman show exploring the extraordinary life of Eglantyne Jebb, founder of Save the Children, human rights activist, radical fundraiser, social reformer. In 1919, Eglantyne founded Save the Children responding with humanitarian zeal to the devastating famine in postwar Europe.  

From her idyllic Shropshire childhood, Eglantyne went on to Oxford University, heartbreaks, suffrage rallies, spiritualism, the Balkans, arrest in Trafalgar Square, saving starving children and pioneering universal children’s rights. Eglantyne Jebb is one of the most influential women of the 20th century and yet one of the least known.  

Eglantyne – a courageous, humble, witty, charming, revolutionary.  

“Humanity owes the child the best it has to give” – Eglantyne Jebb   

EGLANTYNE is a fundraiser for Save the Children. 
6:30 pm – Duration 60 Minutes  


Thu 1 May – Lodge Theatre, Geraldine
Book at Louk NZ Clothing, Old Post Office, Geraldine 03 693 100

Fri 2 May – The Playhouse, Timaru
Book at Newmans Music Shop, 117 Stafford Street, Timaru 03 688 5597

Sat 3 May – Ashburton College Auditorium
Book at Regent Cinema, 03 307 1230

Thu 8, Fri 9, Sat 10 May – Rangi Ruru Girls’ School Theatre, Christchurch
Book at Court Theatre Box Office 03 963 0870, 

Thu 22, Fri 23, Sat 24 May – Hannah Playhouse, 12 Cambridge Terrace, Wellington
Cost: Adults $30, Students $20 
Book at Ticketek, Tel 0800 842 538 

7pm Thursday 10 July (duration 70 mins)
4th Wall Theatre, 11 Baring Tce, New Plymouth
Adults $35, Seniors $30, Students $20
Book: Tel: 0800 4THWALL  


EGLANTYNE launched in New Zealand and has toured to the UK, Australia, Geneva, Beirut and Dar Es Salaam, playing in, playing in theatres, festivals and other spaces including Eglantyne’s childhood home, London’s Central Family Court and NZ’s Government House.

“Written with wit and buoyancy, delivered in fine style” – Lindsay Clark, 

“Outstanding performance, engaging and endearing in equal measure” – The Reviews Hub – London

BATS Theatre: The Heyday Dome
22 – 26 October 2019
at 6:30pm
Full Price $20
Concession Price $15
Group 6+ $15

*Access to The Heyday Dome is via stairs, so please contact the BATS Box Office at least 24 hours in advance if you have accessibility requirements so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS. 

Theatre , Solo ,

1hr 15mins (no interval)

Intelligent, relatable and still relevant

Review by Claire O’Loughlin 23rd Oct 2019

Anne Chamberlain’s theatrical portrayal of the life of Eglantyne Jebb, founder of Save the Children and the person who drafted the Declaration on the Rights of the Child, (which later involved into the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), is as much about Eglantyne as it is about the conversation her story generates, and the awareness it raises for the rights and needs of children today. 

Now several years in, and having been performed all over the world, the show is polished. The design is lightweight for touring, with just a few simple set and props items: a hat stand, a desk and chair, some books and paper, a stool. The simple lighting design is bright with blue tones, which makes Chamberlain’s white shirt almost blinding. I do think this BATS season could make use of the lighting equipment available in the Heyday Dome and have more ambient, warmer tones that would better set the scene for the early 20th century.

Chamberlain is a confident and flawless performer. The simplicity of design is contrasted by the detail that she builds in our imaginations, from Eglantyne’s idyllic countryside upbringing, to her university days at Oxford and experiences with love and loss, to forming Save the Children with her sister Dorothy. Names of powerhouse intelligentsia who she mingled with are dropped throughout – the Darwins, the Keynes, the Woolfs.

It really builds the picture of the dynamism of culture and thought in England at that time, and also of the charity sector as being the vocation of the elite and educated. I find myself mulling over how, in many ways, this is still the case today. But even today I’m sure Eglantyne would still stand out in the sector, with her fearlessly innovative and passionate fundraising techniques. I can only imagine how powerful she would have been with Twitter and Instagram.

Chamberlain tells the story mostly from Eglantyne’s perspective, but interweaves some of her own upbringing in New Zealand. At first, I’m not convinced of what this comparison adds, it seems a bit of a trite storytelling device. But in interweaving the two life stories, Chamberlain demystifies this historical character and brings her into today. We see Eglantyne as a real person who, until she found her life’s purpose in Save the Children, moved unsatisfied from one thing to the next. It’s certainly relatable.

I appreciate how there is no justification for Eglantyne’s passion for children given, beyond her grief for her little brother who died of pneumonia. It is briefly stated that she never had any children of her own, but this information is delivered factually, not warped into some fictionalised ‘so she became mother to all children’ reason, which so many portrayals of women from history do. Chamberlain and Eglantyne between them bust the myth that in order to care for a particular group of people, you need to have a personal connection with them. Eglantyne isn’t presented as ‘motherly’, but rather as intelligent. It is refreshing.

While the character has been carefully wrought through the writing, performance and KC Kelly’s detailed direction, for me there could be some more crafting around the arch and build of the show itself. It feels somewhat relentless. I never get a grasp of the beats or rhythm of the work as a whole and there is no theatre magic or language built that could support the telling of the story. But then, Eglantyne’s life was relentless. And this is a show that is so much more than the story. It’s clear that Chamberlain isn’t out to impress us with theatre tricks, but to get us thinking and talking.

That certainly happens. At the opening night at BATS, the foyer is buzzing afterwards. There are several dignitaries and charities represented in the room. Eloquent speeches by BATS General Manager Jonty Hendry, Save the Children NZ Chair Susie Staley and Anne Chamberlain all express the importance of creative ways for getting people connected and compassionate, and talking about legacies worth remembering and issues still going on today.

Since its premiere in 2014, Chamberlain has been invited to present Eglantyne all over the world, often in ‘theatreland’ spaces (i.e. Fringe festivals and the like) but also to non-theatre spaces around Australia, Europe, and to Lebanon and Tanzania. She has even done a private performance for friends and family of the Jebbs at Eglantyne’s home, The Lyth in Ellesmere, Shropshire.

It’s really incredible where this small but passionate show has gone, and I’m sure will continue to go. It’s a testament not only to Chamberlain and Kelly’s skill, and Eglantyne’s work and how current her message still is, but also to the powerful role of live storytelling in raising awareness and bringing people together about the things that matter. 


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Rewarded with an empathetic insight

Review by Ngaire Riley 11th Jul 2014

What makes us care? What makes someone work so hard for others, it is to the detriment of their own health? Why give up a cushy comfortable life and fight for those who have little or nothing? Male names spring to mind: Christ, Martin Luther King, Ghandi. But women? Joan of Arc… Tonight Anne Chamberlain’s rich and fascinating creation and portrayal of Eglantyne Judd introduces a new name and life to most of us.  

The performance is at the 4th Wall Theatre, 11 Baring Terrace, New Plymouth. An apt name because the character of Eglantyne directly lectures, confides despairs and exalts with us, through the 4th wall. It could be a heavily didactic piece of theatre, but it’s not.   

Anne Chamberlain chronologically recreates the life of this woman who co-founded Save the Children and wrote the Rights of the Child, which evolved into the current United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In the Question and Answer session afterwards, it is interesting to find that there are many women still working for Save the Children present. One has been involved for over 50 years.

Eglantyne is portrayed as smart and witty; she wields words with insight and persuasion. When raising money to support the starving millions in Europe after World War 1, to a packed Royal Albert Hall (how bold is that as an opening fundraiser?), she confronts us with, “Mothers murder their babies rather than watch their ghastly suffering.”  After battling with her father to attend Oxford University she smugly comments, “I believe that cleverness is good.”  Later, having raised a ship full of supplies (that would have filled a train 11 miles long) to save 7 million in Russia, she reflects, “It’s war itself, not any individual race that is the problem.” 

The medium of performance can be a tricky way to tell someone’s life story. Usually film does it better, but Chamberlain deftly links Eglantyne’s early life with her own and draws this far off English story on to New Zealand soil and into the present. The switch from English to New Zealand accent enhances the change. In the Q and A session several of the audience feel that the link needs to continue beyond the first two decades of these women’s lives. I agree. 

Chamberlain’s script is full of the who’s who of the early Twentieth Century: the Einstein’s come to tea, Conan Doyle is a neighbour; Maynard Keynes is a close friend and Eglantyne is friendly with the Bloomsbury set. It is through the family’s connections with social, literary and political people that Eglantyne and her sister are able tap into people with power, skills and influence to raise funds.

Alongside this vivid social context Chamberlain deftly changes the mood to convey the bleak and black parts of Eglantyne’s life. I think Eglantyne would approve of Chamberlain’s energy, skill and versatility, qualities she clearly held.

It is a concern that she discards her hat after the first address. Travelling to the Balkans I feel sure she would add a hat to her gloves, travel bag and umbrella. Perhaps a couple of hats could be used to convey the change of decades in her life.  Technically, the lighting is not even in this performance. When the character moves upstage there are patches of shade particularly obscuring Eglantyne’s head.

This performance demands robust, rigorous focus from the audience and in return they are rewarded with an empathetic insight into a woman’s vision and drive which changed and still changes the lives of millions.  

Eglantyne Judd became known as “the white flame” and congratulations are due to Anne Chamberlain, KC Kelly and their team for shedding light on this fascinating woman’s life.  Thanks 4th Wall Theatre for continuing to bring rich, insightful theatre to New Plymouth.


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Engaging, informative, and very entertaining

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 29th May 2014

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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A story that enriches us all

Review by John Smythe 23rd May 2014

It is a measure of our phallocentric culture and the history its guardians have chosen to promote that most of us have never heard of Eglantyne Jebb: the astonishingly determined social activist, researcher and reformer whose lasting legacies are the worldwide Save the Children organisation and The Declaration of the Rights of the Child. If she’d been a man she’d have been knighted then made a peer of the realm – or maybe not, given her humanity was apolitical and inclusive of all nationalities.

Appalled at the post war famine in Europe, in 1919 she campaigned to “end the blockade and feed the children!”, was arrested in Trafalgar Square for distributing unauthorised pamphlets, established the Fight the Famine Council with her sister Dorothy and founded the Save the Children Fund, which she launched at the Royal Albert Hall. The following year they founded the International Save The Children foundation in Geneva.

This is where the play starts. Writer, sole performer and producer of Eglantyne, Anne Chamberlain (who once worked as a communications adviser for Save the Children), arrives in full flight on the activist trail and quickly enrols us in the cause despite the resistance of those opposed to caring about the starving children of ‘the enemy’. Towards the end of the 80-minute play she quotes George Bernard Shaw: “I have no enemies under the age of seven.”

But this is more than agitprop for a cause that remains just as important today, be it through man’s inhumanity to man or natural disasters. Ms Chamberlain steps out of her deftly-drawn roles, back into herself, to draw parallels between her own life and Eglantyne’s, and to pose the enduring questions: What made Eglantyne care? What makes us care?

In search of the answers she takes us back to the Shropshire childhood enjoyed by the Jebb children, Eglantyne’s time as Oxford University, her failed attempt to be a teacher, her experiences of falling in love and heartbreak. It is in the process of returning to her substantive contribution to the world, that Chamberlain links elements of Eglantyne’s personal life to her own life experiences.

Of course we have to wonder whether, in those times, Eglantyne would have achieved all that if she had become a wife and mother to her very own children. Or was it that her essential far-reaching humanity was inevitably incompatible with the role marriage and motherhood would have confined her to? Eglantyne, by the way – a name passed down through the family – is a type of prickly briar rose.

Chamberlain ensures we empathise as strongly as she does with Eglantyne’s profound experiences of familial and romantic love, and so feel with her the losses she has to endure. And given empathy has always had currency as a means of exchange in theatre, find myself wondering whether we really need the threads of Chamberlain’s personal life to be woven into this story. But the story, as told, does require an external narrative voice, so once introduced it does seem valid to give it a life of its own.  

Sometimes it feels as if, having done all her research, Chamberlain was loath to leave anything out. But every aspect of her family, public and private lives, and all the references to the better-known names that were her contemporaries, undoubtedly enrich the story and ensure she is not over-idealised by being stripped of human foibles and vulnerability.

Directed with elegant simplicity by KC Kelly, the complexities of Eglantyne flow fluently to immerse us in a comprehensive awareness of an extraordinary life from childhood right through to the mountain-top epiphany which brought about The Declaration of the Rights of the Child (also known as the Declaration of Geneva).

I do find it disconcerting that the performer’s eye-line is most often above and beyond the audience. That works early on to suggest the Royal Albert Hall but the rest of the time genuine eye-contact with her actual audience would seem more appropriate. Mind you, on this opening night the intrusion of a live band playing outside, in Courtenay Place (will The Hannah Playhouse ever be soundproofed?) adds a most unwelcome challenge to performer and audience alike. In the face of this, Anne Chamberlain must be congratulated for not missing a beat in a sustained presentation that demands high levels of skill and dedication; qualities which parallel those of Eglantyne Jebb.    

Eglantyne is only on for two more nights in Wellington. It reveals a life that deserves to be known and tells a story that enriches us all.


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Wit and buoyancy in fine style

Review by Lindsay Clark 09th May 2014

The redoubtable Eglantyne Jebb, founder of the Save the Children Fund and prime mover in establishing the internationally subscribed charter for the Rights of the Child, would applaud the imaginative talent displayed in this powerful one-woman show.

Back in her old school for the Christchurch season of a wider tour, Anne Chamberlain energetically meets the challenge of enacting not only the historical personage of Eglantyne, her era, her family and associates, but weaves in some direct parallels from her own life experience, remote in time and place from the main thrust of the narration. In doing so, she reinforces the universality of Eglantyne Jebb’s observations and their ongoing relevance. 

From a privileged Edwardian childhood in rural Shropshire, the journey leads to Oxford and her embroilment in high-minded social reform. Operating on the fringe of the new Liberal movement, including the Bloomsbury group, she is imbued with an idealistic fervour which will characterise all her dealings. Failure of any kind – whether in love or a disastrous attempt at teaching – results in the creation of ever more ambitious schemes as a rebuttal of depression or ill health. 

But it is the blockade of British relief to post-war Europe in 1918 which really galvanises her to action. It is a lack of imagination on the part of those who have comparatively comfortable lives rather than a lack of generosity which must be dealt with. Most deserving of all are the children who may yet save humanity from the terrible plague of war: an all too familiar reflection.  

Sometimes we are listening to narration, sometimes witnessing Eglantyne Jebb herself in action, or other characters from her world. At other times, Anne Chamberlain is just herself. The passing parade demands utter sincerity and flexibility from the actor. These qualities she has in abundance. An altered stance, a fresh voice, perhaps a prop or an item of clothing and the performance gains another layer of meaning. 

KC Kelly’s direction ensures that the pacing of the piece is cleverly managed, with an easy, natural rhythm which fits nicely the unpretentious and engaging work on hand. 

It is then an assured presentation, written with wit and buoyancy, delivered in fine style and well deserving the warm response of an enthusiastic home crowd.


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Successful portrayal of passionate activism

Review by Hugh McCafferty 02nd May 2014

I have just had the privilege of attending the world premiere of Anne Chamberlain’s one-woman show Eglantyne. The work explores the life of Eglantyne Jebb, founder of the Save the Children Fund. The idea of writing the piece came to Ms Chamberlain while she was working for that organisation, and when she realized how little was known of the remarkable woman who founded it. 

On entering the theatre we can hear a recording of a tenor singing in the style of Richard Tauber. That, and the simple set of a hat-stand and book-covered desk prepares us to enter the world of upper middle class England c.1900.

Ms Chamberlain, in character as Eglantyne, bursts into the auditorium and we are transported back to 1919 and a rally at Trafalgar Square. As she reaches the stage the character turns the previous scene into a flashback as she reminisces about the demonstration, and her arrest and conviction for distributing pamphlets depicting the plight of starving children who had the misfortune to be on the losing side of WWI. 

Ms Chamberlain steps in and out of the character of Eglantyne and that of her sister Dorothy as she relives a fundraising event at the Albert Hall (May 1919). The shift is somehow accomplished with a twist of the head and a slight change in accent. We are then taken back in time as Eglantyne reminisces and relives her early life of a privileged childhood, the excitement of a university education, and the agony and ecstacy of her intense love life.  

The piece is written in such a way that one is continually being shifted between being witness to events and hearing the character reflect on her life. The simple stage set up allows for such shifting back and forth in time with ease. As author, Ms Chamberlain allows herself an occasional appearance, sharing her own reminiscences of her experience of Eglantyne’s birthplace, her own enjoyment of Otago University and the sadness of disappointments in love.

Various other characters make brief appearances, but it is Eglantyne’s show as she alternatively retells and relives her life as passionate social reformer, founder of Save the Children and instigator of what was to eventually become the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child.

Anne Chamberlain certainly succeeds for me in portraying the passionate activist that was Eglantyne Jebb. The shifting focus between reliving and retelling the story with authorial intervention maintains interest through the ninety-or-so minutes of the unbroken performance.  The show is informative about Eglantyne’s achievements, but also evokes a whole person, driven by remarkable energy, including the sublimated energy of heartbreak, to found an organisation which is sadly still needed to this day.


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