Oxygen Review – Western Morning News

It could be their costumes, the walking boots, long skirts, straw hats and suffragette-coloured ribbons they are wearing, but as soon as the cast of Oxygen take to the stage there is no doubting the fact that we are about to see something very special.

Written by Natalie McGrath and directed by Josie Sutcliffe, this is 90 minutes of non-stop, compelling theatre.

Created as part of the Dreadnought South West Association project, which works uses art and heritage to champion women's voices and stories, it was inspired by a walk taken 100 years ago from Land's End to London by members of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. That event, in turn, was prompted by Emmeline Pankhurst's hunger strike in Holloway prison and the death of Emily Davison at the Epsom Derby in 1913.

Following the fate of two sisters, one of whom opts to take a path of militancy and the other of peacefulness to achieve their aims, it uses live music, songs, some slick scene shifting and swift costume changes. Audiences see how their relationship changes along the way while being reminded of the struggles the suffragettes suffered in pursuit of their cause.

Wearing black arm bands, the minute's silence they observe in respect of Emily Davison is perhaps the most poignant of the play's many moving moments.

As well as wanting the vote, among their objectives they also want to end child poverty, to stop the white slave traffic and to end sweated labour. As we know, they eventually achieved their main aim but, sadly, a century later, the other problems they campaigned against are still with us.

A word for everyone involved with this admirable production, but particularly for the players, Rebecca Hulbert, Michelle Ridings, Rachel Rose Reid, Carolyn Tomkinson and Stevie Thompson, who are riveting.

The company continues its tour throughout Cornwall with a mix of indoor and outdoor episodes and full performances. A "must see" production for both women and men – especially those who don't bother to go out and vote.

Posted in Reviews of Oxygen
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