Four gifted women who deserve to be at the forefront of British history


Friday, 22nd February 2019, 11:55 am
Updated Friday, 22nd February 2019, 11:57 am

Square Chapel, Halifax, Mar ch 7 ; Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, March 8; Bradford Playhouse, April 17 and Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds April 27.

Yorkshire theatre-makers Unsung Collective have teamed up with award-winning screenwriter Lisa Holdsworth - who writes for locally filmed C4 drama series Ackley Bridge - to create a new piece of feminist theatre charting the untold stories of four women who made - or ought to have made - British history.

And the exciting news is that it will premiere at Square Chapel on Thursday, March 7 before heading off across the country for 12 more performances from Huddersfield’s Lawrence Batley Theatre to London’s King’s Head Theatre.

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The piece called Unsung explores the lives of of Ada Lovelace, Sophia Jex-Blake, Lilian Bailey and Andrea Dunbar and asks why they, and hundreds like them, have been relegated to the footnotes of history.

The show is supported by Arts Council England and the Fenton Arts Trust.

The development of Unsung began when a group of female theatre-makers from Leeds, collectively disgruntled with the tangible lack of engaging, multi-faceted female roles in the theatrical canon, came together to make a new show.

They formed a company, Unsung Collective, which in collaboration with award-winning writer Lisa Holdsworth (Call the Midwife, Ackley Bridge, Midsomer Murders) has created Unsung.

Elvi Piper, Unsung’s Director and also Artistic Director of critically acclaimed theatre company Wrongsemble, explains: “We wanted to make something that interrogated in a lively and relatable way the underrepresentation of women in history, the theatre, and society at large.”

Unsung questions why figures such as Lilian Bader, one of the first women of colour to serve in the British Armed Forces, and Ada Lovelace, whose visionary observations about the potential applications of the Analytical Engine foreshadowed modern day computer coding, are so absent from what we, as a nation, are taught of our history.

The show’s Producer, Alice Barber, adds: “Unsung is neither a history lesson, nor a historical drama, but an exciting piece of new writing that explores with immediacy the very modern struggles of these women.”

A sense of modernity will be tangible, with the use of contemporary dress, physical performance and the ambient electronics of Leeds-based band Peakes, featuring the stirring tones of vocalist Molly Puckering – another distinct female voice.

The stories of both Lilian Bader and playwright Andrea Dunbar have a strong connection to Yorkshire, where the show has been developed.

“It was so important to us that along with representing a diversity of disciplines and backgrounds in the characters, we celebrated the achievements of Yorkshire-women in particular,” explains Lisa Holdsworth.

“We will raise public awareness of our protagonists’ incredible achievements, draw attention to their lack of recognition, and in doing hope to so take meaningful steps towards altering the narrow perspectives that govern the way in which women are regarded today.”

Olivia Race plays Ada Lovelace; physician Sophia-Jex Blake is played by Kirsty Pennycook; Lilian Bader by Riana Duce and Claire-Marie Seddon is Buttershaw playwright Andrea Dunbar - the writer of Rita, Sue and Bob Too and The Arbor who died in 1990 aged just 29.

Tickets for Square Chapel show from 01422 349422.