The Patient Prisoner, The Studio at St Augustine’s Edinburgh, Review:
**** 4 Stars
“a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made”
2018 marks one hundred years since women achieved the right to vote in the UK and there have been many events either held or being planned to mark the occasion and reflect on just what the Suffragettes went through. Writer James Boal has penned a biographical play focusing on Miss Frances Parker one the most militant suffragettes who would go on to serve in the first world war with distinction.
The story is one of remarkable power and is moving throughout, as its ability to shock and deliver the reality of what the women faced is not lost a century on. Confronting us with false arrests, bitter imprisonment and force feeding its dramatic story that’s all the more horrifying that its drawn from the reality of the memories of those long gone but still remembered years later. It is indeed theatre at is most uncensored best.
Boal’s script is taught and delivers a lot of information in the relatively short 70-minute run time and is clearly influenced by the great Joan Littlewood of the theatre workshop as the style delivered is akin to “Oh, What a lovely war”.
Director Hannah Bradley has worked her all female cast well, delivering the emotional drama with flashes of comedy which help break the tension, and she sets a fast pace for the show which doesn’t halt. The Casting of Debi Pirie as Janet Arthur (most suffragettes took on new names to help protect them) is the most striking, as a performer she conveys the complex emotions required that take us from the passionate desire to get the vote to pain of justifying her dream whilst being tortured. Pirie is to be commended for the grace of skill she possesses as an actor. Joining Pirie are Alice Pelan, Grace Gilbert, Kerri Clarence and Rachel Robertson who deliver the dozens of characters that make up the play. They are all good in their own right, although on a few occasions there are dropped lines and repeated lines, this may be due to the line heavy scripting or the fast pacing that made securing the lines difficult.
The Patient Prisoner is an engaging, moving and powerful reminder of the sacrifices made, which defined a political era, and as we sit on the dawn of new era of empowerment for women this play will go far and with a little luck will return for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, if it does make sure you catch a biographical drama at its best.
Story Board Theatre company presents, “The Patient Prisoner”, The Studio at St Augustine’s, Run Ended.