Celebrating 100 years of social change, four groups of performers took to the Royal stage for Shoulder To Shoulder.
Kicking off events, Zoo Co together with Stantonbury Theatre and Stantonbury International School presented a superb and incredibly effective piece inspired by the Suffragettes lessons in self defence – “Suffrajitsu“. A truly powerful piece of theatre, with some stunning choreography and perfect comic timing. Ben Hales’ script captured the essence of the Suffragette movement, balancing comedy and the realities of the violence impeccably. The cast, year 10 students from Stantonbury International School, were wonderful – energetic and knowledgeable, and all of them surely faces to keep an eye out for in the future. They were joined by year 7 pupils who took on the roles of the police who created a threatening wall of truncheons. The clash between the Suffragettes and the Police was an absolute stand out moment, receiving well deserved whoops and applause from the audience.
This was followed by a very different performance from Royal & Derngate’s Actors Company working with Stan’s Cafe, who chose to use their joint passion for performing arts to express their own personal relationship with the social changes over the last 100 years. Honest, and at times utterly heartbreaking, each of 23 local men and women bared their souls directly to the audience in an incredibly moving piece of theatre. Subjects ranged from antisemitism and experiences of motherhood, to stage fright and politics.
Next up was ‘Deeds Not Words’ a collaboration between Vamos Theatre Company, the UK’s leading full mask company, and the Performing Arts students at Abingdon & Whitney College. The piece inspired by the courage and tenacity of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, embodied the struggle of the women of the suffragette movement and how this sadly parallels a lot of the discrimination felt by women of 2018. Emily acts as an almost omniscient figure observing the oppression of women and backwards thinking of modern society, then transitioning to tell her personal fight for equality. It covered a variety of imperative issues from the pay gap to sexual harassment, each handled with honesty and sensitivity. It was also clear that this piece had been created in collaboration with young people; it was fresh and the portrayal of the caricature ‘bullies’ was hilariously accurate. The delightfully crafted masks, alongside the dynamic physicality of the young actors made for beautiful story telling.
Finishing the day was ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’, performed and created by Paper Birds and Pepper’s Ghost Theatre Company which left no stone unturned when it came to feminism. The piece carried the idea that all issues dealt with by women carry importance, so whether that be sexual violence against women or the fact that girls are given dolls and boys are given tractors; it all contributes to the warped attitudes and inequality of our society. It also depicted how far as a society we have come since 1918 but likewise how far we still have to go and therefore must continue fighting. They broke down feminism simply while breaking down the stereotypes of the power hungry, bra burning, men hating feminists. ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ used verbatim as well as personal anecdotes and opinions of the cast to create a piece with character, a political piece with a heart.
Shoulder to Shoulder took place at Royal & Derngate on Sunday 21 October 2018.