A Necessary Woman – ‘No Vote, no Census’

Big Slider A necessary woman Poster image front

By Ollie van Hoeken, Bedales student

After teaching us about the context of the characters and events in the play in Jaw, Deborah Clair and Philippa Urquhart headed over to the theatre to prepare for their touring show.

The plot of the play is how Emily Davidson and ‘necessary woman’ Mary meet in the cleaning cupboard, and discuss their views of the suffragettes. Emily Davidson, a historical suffragette famously threw herself under the King’s horse for the right of women to vote. The character of Emily has come to disrupt the House of Commons meeting after the 1911 census.

The minimalist set created an intimate atmosphere and the use of recorded voice and sound of bells and the master, made the scenes focussed. With clear temporal shifts, the characters’ stories unfold; the audience can realise the irrelevance of class and age in an unlikely friendship. In this play Emily plans to address the House of Commons, however in 1911 she failed and this play gave the audience a rare chance to hear her voice.

Through the character of Mary, we see what life was like for women in the lower classes. She considered it lucky to keep her job after having given up her baby for adoption, this moment of saddening confession provided clear juxtaposition from Emily’s speeches of power. Mary made it clear that this was not uncommon for women of the time. By the end of the evening the audience took away a clear message: women have fought for the right to be equal and society has made huge leaps but there’s still a long way to go. This topic is still relevant today, but shown in a historical setting we see the similarities in prejudice.