City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

What Women Want Review

By Irene Brown - Posted on 18 August 2009

Show details
Riddle's Court
Citadel Arts Group and the Workers’ Educational Association
Running time: 
Liz Hare (director), Rebecca Roosman (Costume designer), Stewart Emm (Sound and slides), Sandra Ramsay (Stage Manager)
Stephanie Falls, Caroline MacKellar, Mairi Jayne Weir and Mark Kydd (performers)

No, it's not a stage version of the Mel Gibson film! This is a celebration of the march that took place on 9th October 1909, by hundreds of Scottish suffragettes and suffragists, led by 'General' Flora Drummond on horseback, when they marched down Edinburgh's Princes Street demanding votes for women (an anniversary march is planned for 10th October).

What Women Want tells the story of these women and their families, and their fight for equality and brings to life well known women like Dr Elsie Inglis, Flora Drummond, Dr Grace Cadell, Ethel Moorhead and other Edwardian suffragettes.

The show is produced by two organisations: the Citadel Arts Group
has produced plays in and around Edinburgh since 1995. It works with
people of all ages to create theatre in the community, giving
opportunities to new actors and playwrights. The Workers' Educational
Association was founded in 1903, and is a national voluntary
organisation and charity that provides education for adults of all ages
in communities and workplaces across Scotland. The WEA has been running
liberal adult educations classes in Riddle's Court, Edinburgh, since
the 1950s.

To a packed house, the four strong cast took the audience through a fantastically entertaining journey of the struggle to gain the enfranchisement of women. This small group of talented and versatile actors (it was hard to believe there was only the four of them!) showed, through various scenarios interspersed with music hall comic innuendo, the broad section of society that was involved in the struggle.

They moved easily from the coal owner to the coal miner, not only through the very fine costumes that were quickly and smoothly donned, but through the excellent use of Scots and other dialects throughout the play. This must be testament to their skills but also to the skills of the writers to have such acute ears.

Although the play is set in the Edwardian era, remnants of Victorian values remained. Women were still being reminded about being in "proper spheres" and, even an educated woman like Dr. Elsie Inglis is expected to "suffer and be still" when she tries to volunteer as a war surgeon. But the play itself is not at all prudish, with the revelation that some men were turned on by their wives' new assertiveness and the very touching scene with the lesbian Lochinvar.

When one of the characters wistfully says that all will be well when women get the vote, there were knowing laughs from the largely female audience. The play is a timely reminder that women's liberation should never be taken for granted. It is only a hundred years since women were granted the vote and only just over 80 years since we gained full enfranchisement. The slogan of Scottish Suffrage Movement was "A gude cause maks a strong arm." This is still a gude cause and this is a Fringe play well worth seeing.

Times: August 17-22, £9 (£7)