Shakespeare’s Globe presents the new play Blue Stockings, the eye-opening story of four young women fighting for their right to education and self-determination against the backdrop of the larger suffragette movement. Blue Stockings is set in and around Girton College, Cambridge in the 1890s – home to the country’s first female students and an object of contempt and derision for the rest of the university. Its young women face astonishing levels of prejudice, as well as the economic hardships, romantic entanglements and distractions of radical politics that still characterize student life in the 21st century. Then a controversial vote appears on the horizon: should these ‘blue stockings’ be allowed to graduate along with their male counterparts?
Blue Stockings is theatre director Jessica Swale’s play-writing debut, and the first play to dramatise this pivotal moment in the battle for sexual and educational equality in Britain. In 2013, as new financial barriers to university spring up at home and the issue of women’s access to education all over the world is rarely off the news agenda, many of the questions the play raises feel as significant and relevant now as ever.
Jessica Swale is the Artistic Director of the Red-Handed Theatre Company, which she set up after training at the Central School of Speech and Drama and the University of Exeter. Recent productions include The School for Scandal, Twelfth Night, The Rivals (starring Celia Imrie), and The Belle’s Stratagem, for which she was nominated for Best Director in the Evening Standard Awards. She also directed Bedlam at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2010 – the first work by a female playwright ever performed at the theatre. Jess is currently writing a new play about Nell Gwynn.
Director John Dove’s previous productions for Shakespeare’s Globe include Howard Brenton’s In Extremis and Anne Boleyn, and All’s Well That Ends Well. His other directorial credits include Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme (Hampstead Theatre) and an Arthur Miller quadruple bill of Death of A Salesman, All My Sons, The Man Who Had All The Luck and View from the Bridge at Royal Lyceum Edinburgh, where he is Associate Director. John has also directed at the Royal Court, the Old Vic, the Lyric Hammersmith and the Bush Theatre.