Thursday, 23 June 2022

REVIEW: Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World at the Theatre Royal Stratford East

The celebration of sisterhood can take many forms, but we don’t need to flip back very far in the history books to see how women have changed the world. This new musical is based on the award-winning picture book by suffragette descendent Kate Pankhurst. It seems the influence of Six is bearing fruit as an all-female ensemble brings to life some of history’s greatest women. This show is bursting with sass and attitude as they deliver a large slice of edutainment; that delectable blend of entertainment and information. The Theatre Royal Stratford East unsurprisingly drew a youthful contingent as this tight 90-minute musical kicked off with a real sense of purpose.

The story begins with the instantly familiar and infamous school trip to the museum. Jade (Kudzai Mangombe), an inquisitive 11-year-old has slipped away from her party. She is coping with her parents’ separation and wishes people would notice her. Wandering into the Gallery of Greatness she enters a space devoid of time. Jade encounters a range of fantastic women who have changed the world. Twelve characters burst on stage and show Jade how she too can be great and change the world just like they did. Emmeline Pankhurst (Kirstie Skivington) emerges in a funky, glittering military uniform while Amelia Earhart (Renee Lamb) is the super confident aviator. Marie Curie (Jade Kennedy) is the genius who discovered radium and Jane Austen (Christina Modestou) is the wordsmith with crystal clear delivery.

There’s an undeniable exuberance about this production as tuneful songs provide a foot-stomping, singalong appeal. The best of which is ‘Words not deeds’ which features Emmeline Pankhurst in hard and heavy rapping style. An excellent cast performs flawlessly throughout the show but something troubling nags at the back of one’s mind. The programme is brightly coloured with stickers on the centre pages which is an unusual extra. Although great fun it seems obvious the show is primarily aimed at children and thus lacks wide crossover appeal. With the number of excitable children in the audience, it could easily have been a school outing. It does feel reminiscent of a touring company that visits schools to deliver shows. This production of course operates at a much higher level but leaves a similar impression that limits its potential. But there wasn’t one person leaving the venue who wasn’t thoroughly entertained by what they saw; in the end, that’s all that really matters.

Review by Brian Penn

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls K11 | Price of Ticket: £37.50/£12.00 concessions

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