Back in 2002, I spent several months on the road with a big professional production of The Borrowers. I was Assistant Stage Manager, and understudy for all three female roles – and I had a walk-on part at the end as long-lost Cousin Eggletina. It was exhausting: a different theatre every week, each with their own challenges (missed flight connections, lost bits of equipment, no room on Stage Right wing for any bits of set at all…and let’s just gloss over the appalling – and terrifying – week in Crewe) but the company camaraderie was second to none, and I met the man who later became my husband (aww). It wasn’t my first professional production – far from it – but it did turn out to be my last, for various reasons.
I became a teacher for a few years, and I also found that writing provided a creative release similar to performing, so I haven’t really missed the stage. And then earlier this year, friends of ours announced they were putting on a production of Blue Stockings by Jessice Swale, and I was invited to audition. Once I read the precis of the play, I’m afraid I couldn’t resist – and so I joined the cast. I have two relatively small parts, which suits me very well, since I do feel a bit rusty! And I’ve also been co-opted into the stage management team, so when I’m not in a scene, I’m usually lugging tables and benches around!
Blue Stockings is set at the end of the 19th century in Cambridge University. Women were allowed to study (though much head-shaking was done over the damage inflicted on their fertility by too much intellectual stimulation – I KNOW) but they weren’t yet allowed to graduate. So as a bright intelligent woman (with money behind you), you could shun the early route into marriage and spend a few years opening your mind and becoming highly educated, but at the end of it you had no qualification and you were basically unlikely to be married because what man would have you?
It’s a wonderful play that bounces along thanks to the fairly short scenes and snappy dialogue, and the rest of the cast are just fab. I’ve had a lot of fun in rehearsals, and tonight is Opening Night!
If you’re in or near Oxford and you fancy a night out at the theatre that’ll provide laughs, light romance, history and not-too-heavy politics (NB no pigs in this production), then please do come along; there are still tickets available and I’d love to see my friends in the audience.
You can buy tickets here – the play runs from tonight until Saturday at the Old Fire Station, George Street, Oxford.