Review: 'Blue Stockings'

By: Isabelle Duff

There was a great deal of hype about Blue Stockings. The publicity and production team did an excellent job promoting the project, using Facebook to showcase the large cast and crew. The play followed the lives of four Girton college students, and the fight for female students to graduate from Cambridge. There was a large cast and production team, which added to the challenge of putting on the play. The result was an impressive production although not without its flaws.

On the whole, I found the performance to be both moving and extremely funny. I must particularly commend Mishia Leggit for her characterisation of Carolyn Addison here, her comic timing and delivery were excellent. It was a particularly strong performance. Ed Fry also deserves credit for his powerful portrayal of the awful Lloyd. The contrast between the two characters worked particularly well. Overall, the acting from the entire cast was good, although not seamless, with delivery and accents wavering at times. In a cast of this size it is often easy for actors to be overshadowed, but with Blue Stockings, I felt that all of the actors had their chance to stand out, no matter their part.

I am generally not a fan of plays with minimal sets and feel that the acting is never good enough to overcome the lack of an authentic set. While Blue Stockings did not necessarily suffer for its minimal set, it could have been enhanced by some more features. The St-Age is a large space and efforts were made to make the most of this. In some cases this worked very well, such as in the opening scene involving Tess (Milly Clover) riding a bicycle and the scene in which the male protesters stormed through the auditorium to the stage. It was not carried off as successfully when the cast stepped onto an extension of the stage on the right hand side. It often was not clear where the action was taking place, and some audience members complained that they were unable to see the actors when this part of the stage was in use. The cast all sung 'Gaudemus Igitur' during what was noticeably messy and rushed curtain call. The singing was excellent, (due in no small part to the audible tones of Harrison Sheppard and Alice Gold) but this addition seemed rather random and out of place, as no context was given. A simple note on the significance of the song in the programme would have quickly remedied this.

All of this aside, I actually really enjoyed the play. It was surprisingly funny and moving, and the production and technical team managed to evoke the era in a simple but effective way. It was an ambitious project and I commend the director Helena Jacques Morton for taking it on. It was a most appropriate and worthy choice.

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