Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes – Theatre Review

I reviewed this show for Broadway World UK. You can read my official review here, but for a more personal, chatty review, keep on reading…

Expectations: 3.5/5
Reality: 4.5/5
Chronic Illness Friendly: 2/5

Everything Is Possible is a powerful piece of community theatre. Whilst I admit having my reservations at first, by the ending I was completely blown away. The play, written by Bridget Foreman, tells the story of Annie Seymour-Pearson, a local woman from York who risked her life to fight for the right to vote.

And where better to begin a story like this than outside the world famous York Minster? The prologue feels more like a street party than a cultural play, with actors mingling through the standing crowds and inviting them to join in with their songs and chants for women’s rights. If you’re a poorly person like me, make sure you request a seat ahead of the performance, so the staff can make sure they have enough available for you to sit down. The view obviously wasn’t amazing what with everybody stood up and walking about, but I very much enjoyed sitting and hanging out with the OAPs, having life chats and sharing some mint imperials. We party hard.

Following the introduction of the cast, the entire audience is marched back into the theatre, a short distance away. Whilst I thought this was a really clever way of encouraging audience participation, this wasn’t ideal for my fatigue-based chronic illness: there was a bit of confusion over where the audience were being directed, meaning that the walk was longer than it needed to be. I do think this will improve as the show continues its run, but I would advise caution for anybody who struggles with walking.

In terms of the play, I loved how much emphasis the story placed on the city itself; references to locations in York, witty digs at neighbouring regions (‘she’s from Leeds but we don’t hold it against her…’) and of course, the good old Yorkshire dialect, all worked in the play’s favour and really helped the audience to invest in the story.

The huge cast, including both Pilot Theatre Company and volunteers from across the city, were all enthusiastic and committed to the performance. Whilst not all of the acting was amazing, there were several stand-out members. Barbara Marten as the lead of Annie was absolutely stunning, and in my opinion carried the entire play. Annabel Lee as Lilian Lenton and Jo Smith as Violet were also brilliant, as was the lady playing the role of the woman from Leeds: I couldn’t find a name, but if anybody from EIP is reading this and knows who I mean, I would love to give her credit. The play created roles for people of all ages, giving several children moments in the spotlight of their own, something that I’m sure everybody enjoyed. I also have to mention how brilliantly Barbara Marten and Mark France (playing Mr and Mrs Seymour Pearson) handled a prop malfunction close to the beginning of the play, staying calm and managing to make light of it whilst remaining in character and keeping on track. I can only aspire to have that level of control over the many, many unpredictable life situations in my own day-to-day existence. Sigh.

I really can’t imagine how must work must have gone into creating a performance like this. As well as the 150+ cast members, there must have been countless volunteers behind the scenes, co-ordinating all the action for months prior to opening night. The play ran almost seamlessly, and so I hope the crew receive all the credit they deserve.

The play overall was very cleverly written; entertaining, but not skirting around some of the very serious issues that faced women in the past. There are some things in life that we in the UK are privileged enough to not have to think about too often in present times, but this play forces you to observe some uncomfortable truths about the way women used to be treated, just for being women. Although equality is an issue that remains relevant today, it’s clear that the role of females has evolved a LOT over the past century, thank goodness. I’m definitely not made for a life of housework and speaking only when spoken to. Nuh-uh.

The ‘deeds not words’ theme of the play was especially thought-provoking: it got me thinking about how everybody is so quick to post about certain societal issues on social media (which is great in its own way, of course), but all too often, it just isn’t enough to bring about change. Maybe we do need to remember that deeds, where possible, could be the real way forward. If we want to make a difference in the world, we do need to talk about things (and social media is a particularly powerful way of doing so), but we also need to act on them. However, please do not take this this as an endorsement for burning down buildings like the suffragettes did…

If you’re in York, this is a really great show to see: historical, entertaining and an emotional reminder of the plight that the suffragettes faced for us women today to enjoy the rights that all too often we take for granted. I know now that every time I vote in the future, I’ll be all too aware of what these incredible women sacrificed for me to put a cross in a box and have my own say in the running of our country. Even if I’m still convinced that George Ezra would make a better prime minister than any of the current party leaders (but that’s an issue for another time…).

Book your tickets for EIP here.
Support York Theatre Royal to help them continue creating original shows by donating here.

Thanks for reading! If you’re a fan of the theatre, you might like to click here to read more of my stage-y posts!

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