Two things made this week’s topic inevitable. Last week’s blog photo of Edythe Olive in the 1907 votes-for-women production of Euripides’ Medea attracted several emails, and I saw Sarah Gavron’s movie Suffragette. It passes with flying colours my basic test for cinema, being both entertaining and enlightening.
|Actresses Franchise League|
|McCarthy as Dionysos|
When Gertrude Kingston became the lessee of the Little Theatre in the Adelphi in 1908, she knew about Greek drama because she had acted the role of Helen in the 1905 pro-Boer Trojan Women directed by Granville Barker. She was personally more interested in the photo opportunities afforded by glamorous Hellenic robes than by politics, but she still chose a radical feminist and gay rights campaigner, Laurence Housman (A.E. Housman’s brother), to translate Aristophanes’ Lysistrata for her company.
|Kingston as Lysistrata|
|McCarthy as Jocassta|
Six months later Kingston also directed a scene from the play as part of a matinée organized at the Aldwych by the Actresses’ Franchise League and the Women Writers Suffrage League; the performance was enhanced by ‘carefully planned typical interruptions from the audience’, similar to the audience participation which had enlivened the performances of Elizabeth Robins’s suffragette drama Votes for Women! The Woman’s Press published Housman’s translation (1911); American suffrage groups also performed it.
So the craze for Greek theatre currently sweeping London’s theatreland is by no means without precedent: I just wish that I could see any serious political ideals or agendas underpinning any of the productions on offer...