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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.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

REVIEW: Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World at the MAST Mayflower Studios

Kate Pankhurst’s who is distantly related to the suffragette Emily Pankhurst first published her book Fantastically Great Women in 2016 and will soon have seven in the series. Changed the World is now accompanied by Made History, Worked Wonders, Saved the Planet, Stories of Ambition, Adventure and Bravery, Scientists, and their stories and soon Artistes and their stories. These beautifully illustrated books must have caught the imagination of a new young generation of girls and their mothers and are a compelling reminder of the many achievements of a group of heroines highly committed and motivated to make a difference to the World. At a time when the theatre has such a vital role to play in promoting equality and diversity, the material is ripe for adaption to the stage.

Chris Bush has adapted the books for the stage with the music of Miranda Cooper and Jennifer Decilveo and created a seventy-five-minute celebration of some of these women aimed very firmly at young girls aged 6 to 16 and their mums who might be inspired by the stories. The end result is a sort of mash-up of Horrible Histories with a Night in the Museum and an occasional touch of the Six musical treatment of Henry VIII’s wives. The development of all musicals takes time and there is a sense that this premiere at MAST in Southampton is not quite the finished article with every aspect requiring fine-tuning and adjustment.

Set in the Gallery of Greatness which is depicted as a warehouse of brown crates with bright illuminated neon arrow lights the structure has the young actress playing Jade on stage throughout. She is the schoolgirl hiding with her teddy bear as the gallery closes, or was it opening it was hard to tell, to have an adventure in which she meets the characters from the past. It is a lot to ask of the four young ladies who rotate the role. On opening night 16-year-old Eva-Marie Saffrey, who has appeared as Matilda in the West End, played the part of the 11-year-old Jade and the first-night audience gave her deserved rapturous encouragement at every opportunity.
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