Want to catch some inspiring tales from herstory* at the Edinburgh Fringe, but don’t fancy wading through thousands of show listings to find the hidden gems? Help is at hand!
Ahead of the return of my podcast series A Feminist’s Guide to the Festivals I’ve put together a wee guide to shows shining a light on women’s stories. I can’t vouch for the quality of any of these shows – the beauty of the Fringe is that anyone can have a go – but I’ll definitely be checking some of them out. If you spot another show that fits the bill do (or indeed you’re staging one), do let me know about it in the comments!
*Herstory = history viewed from a female or specifically feminist perspective
Unless otherwise stated these shows run for more or less the full duration of the Fringe (August 3-27) and many have previews before the official start date.
“Vibrant, inspiring play about Eglantyne Jebb, the visionary, courageous, passionate, human rights pioneer and founder of Save the Children. ‘Written with wit and buoyancy, delivered in fine style’ (Theatreview.org.nz). ‘Outstanding performance, engaging and endearing, a great show’ (TheReviewsHub.com). In 1919, challenging the British government’s lack of response to the devastating famine in post-war Europe, Eglantyne and her sister Dorothy founded Save the Children. From idyllic Shropshire, follow Eglantyne to Oxford University, Cambridge social work, Bloomsbury, heartbreaks, suffrage rallies, spiritualism, the Balkans, arrest in Trafalgar Square and pioneering children’s rights. Written and performed by Anne Chamberlain, directed by KC Kelly.”
That Daring Australian Girl
(limited dates from Aug 2-27)
“The women of England demand the vote! The remarkable true story of Muriel Matters: the South-Australian actress and elocutionist who became a leading figure of the UK’s suffragette movement and the foremost woman orator in Britain. Written and performed by Joanne Hartstone (The Girl Who Jumped Off the Hollywood Sign). Winner: Best Theatre, Adelaide Fringe 2018”.
On Their Own Ground (NB slightly different title to the one in the print programme)
August 12-19 only
“Meet three women whose lives show that vision plus action can change anything! Join Madam C J Walker (the first self-made American female millionaire and hair-product queen), Amy Ashwood Garvey and Amy Jacques Garvey (the two wives of African nationalist the Hon Marcus Garvey, champions of the movement in their own right), in Amantha Edmead’s play about the power of hope in action. Follow our heroines from post-slavery, through Garveyism, to the Harlem Renaissance and beyond… Drawing on African theatrical practices of fusing performance, this piece is brought to life through storytelling, comedy, movement and song.”
My Name is Dorothy
August 3-18 only (not 12)
“Dorothy Lawrence, an aspiring British journalist, disguised herself as a soldier and spent three weeks undercover at the front in France during WWI. After her discovery, she was banned from journalism but wrote a book about her experiences which was finally published in 1919. Later in her life, she claimed under investigation that she was raped as a child by her churchman and was consequently sectioned and spent the rest of her life in Friern Hospital. Where is her story now?”
The Freedom Machine
“There are a worrying number of ‘ists’ in society today – racists, sexists, even fascists – who’d have thought they’d make such a comeback?! For her debut Edinburgh show, Elaine Gallagher focuses on a positive ‘ist’ in society: the cyclist! This hilarious audio-visual stand-up show celebrates 100 years of women’s suffrage through the revolutionary bicycle, mixing past and present, fact and fiction, personal, political and historical, to explore cyclists, motorists, and feminists. Gallagher’s credits include: Co-director, The Comeback feature film (Filmbase); writer, The Mario Rosenstock Show (RTÉ). Premiered at Smock Allies: Scene + Heard 2018.”
Armour: A Herstory of the Scottish Bard
“What do the widow and mistress of Scotland’s famous bard discuss over tea? After the death of Robert Burns, his wife Jean Armour and mistress Nancy Maclehose, finally meet. Female-led theatre company Fearless Players bring an all-female production dedicated to the women behind Scotland’s history. Jean and Nancy inspired some of Burns most famous work, after years of songs being written about them, its time for their story to be told. Using the well-known music of Robert Burns, woven with original composition, Herstory gives a voice to the women behind the bard.”
“Morayshire, 1662. Runaway Isobel works for charismatic witch-pricker John Dixon. She worships him, but when he’s accused of falsifying his identity, will she accept that he’s not the man he claims to be… or indeed a man at all? A pitch-black exploration of gender politics and religious fundamentalism. Winner of the Assembly Roxy Theatre (ART) Award.”
Queen of the Air
August 13-18 only
“Born in Kansas, home of the South Wind, in 1897, Amelia Earhart reigned as Queen of the Air until her mysterious disappearance over the Pacific in 1937. In 1932, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She was a passionate advocate of equality in a staunchly male world where ‘the air was the only place free of prejudice’ (Bessie Coleman). We are stardust and return to the stars through adversity. An original one-woman show exploring the life and times of an extraordinary and fearless adventurer. ‘Emotionally-charged’ **** (BroadwayBaby.com).”
That Woman! Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor
“She won a King’s heart in the 40 year romance known around the world as The Love Story of the 20th century. In December 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated his throne for the twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson. Despite being vilified by the Royal Family and branded as an “adventuress”, the “King’s whore” and worse, she became an unlikely but potent global symbol of female empowerment and a worldwide social icon. But even with all that has been written about her, Wallis remained an enigma. Until now.”
A Gallant Life
(August 3-18 only)
“It’s August 1918 and it’s finally beginning to look like an Allied victory is on the cards. The Kippers, the performing members of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in St Omer, are putting on a show to celebrate. Amongst them is Muriel Thompson, motor-racing champion, suffragette, ambulance driver and decorated war veteran. But where did she come from and how did she end up here? A true and heart-warming new musical from an acclaimed company about what happens when a woman defies expectations and takes matters into her own hands. ‘High-energy, gleeful and self-deprecating’ (Fest).”
Building Emily Warren: The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge
August 13-15 and 17 only
“It’s 1870. How can a woman possibly become an engineer? Meet Emily Warren Roebling, the woman who, against all odds, ensured the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge. Immerse yourself in this original musical tale of strength, women’s rights, and perseverance.”