Thursday, 13 June 2013

Emily Wilding Davison: the one who threw herself under the horse

Yesterday was the Manchester performance of Emily Wilding Davison: the one who threw herself under the horse - a play written by Ros Connelly, and devised by writer Kath Burlinson and actress Elizabeth Crarer. Guest blogger Ingrid who is currently on a work placement at the People's History Museum was able to attend and review the play for the Wonder Women Blog. 
The People's History Museum seems like the ideal stage for a play about Emily Wilding Davison. It celebrates individuals and groups with causes worth fighting for and in my mind, Emily put up the ultimate fight.
Crarer's performance was incredibly fluid and at times even visceral. With little in the way of scenery and few props, it was a truly physical experience and Crarer really embodied her version of Davison. The Davison represented here is a self possessed and articulate woman; self aware yet consumed by the injust nature of womens rights at the time. Several times she declares 'this is the 20th Century!', outraged that it is now the early 1900's yet women still cannot have a political voice.
The play presented the relentless nature of campaigning, with repeated incidents, prison sentences coupled with Emily's personal struggles all making for an emotional experience.
I enjoyed the rope device, hung from one of the beams in the room it was used to create tension and movement and also represent objects in the most basic way, even a bicycle. It is a testament to Crarer that I felt completely pulled into Emily's world, immersed in every scene, looking where she looked, imagining those around her despite her being the only physical presence. The use of mostly ambient sounds really helped to create such a sense of atmosphere that there were times when I, as well as other members of the audience felt inclined to join in with her chanting of 'votes for women!'.
The chance to answer questions after the play was a great opportunity to understand the work of the team behind this play. I got the sense that they wanted to make Emily's individual story heard and differentiate her rather than just being lumped into the suffragette movement. It allowed her to be one woman, rather than an inhuman super-suffragette, almost. The point was made about Emily Wilding Davison being confused with other women until it is clarified that she was 'the one who threw herself under the horse', which is what influenced the title of the play.
It also threw up how relevant the issue of activism is even today. It was really inspiring to gain an insight into what Emily's life might have been like, her focus and commitment to the suffragette movement was one which would have been felt by so many women whose names and stories may well have been lost.
Devised theatre is about the process, what you see is the final product but leading up the the performance is a highly collaborative environment where all involved work together to create something. To hear more from the women involved in the creation of this play, click here.

For more information about future performances across the UK, click here. I would highly recommend you attend if you can.