Chester MP enjoys Suffragette play at The Little Theatre
Recently at Chester Little Theatre, two packed houses enjoyed Loud Hailers, a topical new play by local writer, Jan Bengree, to which the cast were delighted to welcome Chris Matheson, Chester’s MP, seen here (backrow, centre) with the cast and Jan Bengree (front row, second in from right).
Appropriately, Jan’s play has a political theme. It focuses on an incident which happened in 1912 outside Chester Town Hall when the Suffragette, Mary Phillips, “flour-bombed” the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith (an indignity to which our Member of Parliament has not been subjected!) while he was visiting Chester on his way back from a meeting with Lord Lever on the Wirral.
This fascinating incident was discovered by Jenny and Paul Shryane, Directors of Chester Little Theatre’s Youth Theatre, who undertook much painstaking research and collaborated with Jan to dramatise the story, using both adult and youth members of the Theatre.
In 1912 women were still not allowed the vote, despite wide campaigning of Parliament. Provocative and outrageous behaviour seemed to draw more attention to the Suffragette cause than marching with banners: they chained themselves to railings, smashed windows and – in Chester – threw flour at the Prime Minister’s car.
Loud Hailers showed what happened to women who used this course of action: they were arrested and sent to prison. Some continued their campaign by going on hunger-strike and were then forcibly fed by a rubber tube, which was vividly described by the actor playing Mary Phillips.
The struggle of the Suffragettes was suggested to Jenny and Paul by Elisabeth Stafford. Liz (a long-member of the Theatre) told them about her militant suffragette grandmother in Liverpool and inspired them to consider the Women’s Suffrage Movement as a worth topic for an adult-youth performance.
Sadly, Liz passed away this autumn and the two performances were dedicated to her memory.