have no sense of humour?” is the teasing question chalked up outside the
theatre in order to tempt us inside, and indeed there is some fun to be had
viewing this triple bill of plays written for the Actresses Franchise League
between 1908 and 1913.
is a curiosity value too, and the evening is a fascinating glimpse into
Edwardian era agitprop. As such it is a rare pleasure but, sadly, this is drama
in its most slimline guise. The three plays – Miss Appleyard’s
Awakening by Evelyn Glover, Lady Geraldine’s
Speech by Beatrice Harraden and How The Vote Was
Won by Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John – are all written with
passion, and indeed humour, but also with such predictability and thinness of
character that they have the air of extended sketches rather than plays.
Knickerbocker Glories assumes that the audience is clearly
on its side from the start – as of course we are in this day and age – but it’s
intriguing that such an assumption might also have existed when the plays were
the first, directed by Russ Hope, Miss Appleyard (Charlotte Moore) receives
a visitor (Kathryn Martin) who is trying to persuade her to sign an
Anti-Suffrage Society (ASS) petition. During the course of the visit it
transpires that Miss Appleyard is not such a willing signatory as both she, and
her visitor, assumed at the outset.
the second piece, directed by Samantha Bond, Lady Geraldine (Naomi Paxton)
is in a terrible fluster because she has somehow got herself elected president,
or vice president, or perhaps even Hon. Sec. – she’s not quite sure – of the
Anti-Suffrage Society, and she has to make a speech. She turns to her old
schoolfriend Dr Alice (Beatrice Rose) to write it for her, without taking on
board the fact that Dr Alice is a militant suffragette, who tells her that the
anti-suffragists have “a passionate insistence on their own
the final play, directed by Sam Kenyon, poor hapless male Horace Cole is
descended upon by all his female relatives, demanding that he support them. Cue
much masculine huffing and puffing and a suitably flag-waving ending.
very appealing as historical trinkets, but not exactly a revelation of hidden
dramatic talent. If perhaps just one of the three had had a subtler or more
substantial approach to the subject, the evening would have had a greater sense
of balance for today’s audience.