Tag Archives: Lydia Bakelmun



VAULT Festival



The Vaults

Reviewed – 13th March 2019



“an ambitious project … nicely done, with simple choreography and unified breath”


10 is an ambitious project for an hour long play; to distill the lives of ten women from history. Luckily, Lizzie Milton’s script lives up to the challenge well. When the audience enter the five women, who will take on two roles each, are standing around the space, statuesque in long dark blue dresses. The beginning and the transitions are nicely done, with simple choreography and unified breath. Director Nastazja Somers has created a strong framework on which to base the strands of the women’s stories and the music, sound and lighting, by Nicola Chang and Rajiv Pattani, support and complement the action beautifully. The casting is largely race and age blind, and it works really well.

Pamela Jikiemi took on the contrasting roles of Aethelflaed and Mary Prince. As Aethelflaed, the earliest recorded female ruler in Britain, she was impressive; portraying pride in achievement, and the shock of not being remembered. As Mary Prince, a woman who escaped slavery and terrible ill treatment to become only the second black woman to have her autobiography published, she was magnificent. Mary’s strength and anger, her suffering, and her pride shone through, and her sorrow when she thought of her husband was genuinely moving.

Rebecca Crankshaw was Brenda Proctor and Ada Lovelace. Proctor played a central, but largely undocumented, role in the miner’s strike, leading twenty-three thousand women on a march from Staffordshire to London. This piece was the least successful, not really conveying Proctor’s strength. There was so much concentration on her warm offerings of tea and cake that her activism rather got lost. Crankshaw gave a strong performance as Ada Lovelace, although I found her declarations, such as ‘I’m bloody brilliant, aren’t I!” rather jarring. There was no sense of her as a woman of her time.

Lydia Bakelmun played Princess Caraboo and Noor Inayat Khan, bringing warmth and charm to both roles. Princess Caraboo was a young woman from Devon who managed to convince people both in the UK and the USA that she was a princess from a faraway land. When her deception was discovered she settled in Bristol and sold leeches to the Infirmary. Bakelmun’s Caraboo was flirtatious and appealing, sure of her beauty and delightful. In the very different role of Noor Inayat Khan she gave us a portrayal of a brave and very human heroine. Khan was of Indian and American descent, and was in the Special Forces during WW11. She gave the audience a dilemma. Would you kill a nazi to save the lives of innocent people? Could you do it? Khan’s courage, arrest and execution, her final cry of ‘liberte’ were beautifully portrayed.

Beth Eyre’s first role was the Welsh artist Gwen John. John was recognised for her portraits of women, although she was overshadowed by her more famous brother, Augustus. Eyre’s Gwen was full of self doubt, imbued with a sense of faith, yet anxious about an upcoming exhibition. Her second role was that of Joan Clarke, who worked at Bletchley Park decoding the Enigma machine. Remembered now for her brief engagement to Alan Turing, Clarke was a gifted mathematician who made an important contribution the the war effort. Eyre showed her as a careful, deep thinking woman, concerned to make a word where everyone would be equally valued and welcome. Don’t try to knock the wall down, create a way through – a door maybe, she said.

Naomi Knox gave us Mary Seacole and Constance Markievicz, two very different women, both brought beautifully to life. Seacole was British-Jamaican woman who went to nurse in the Crimea, going there at her own expense. Knox showed her as a strong, woman, fulfilled by her work and her care for the patients. Then as a person lost, having to return home after doing so much. The warm strength of Mary Seacole was sharply contrasted by the harder strength of Constance Markievicz, a political revolutionary who fought for Ireland’s freedom from Britain. Knox was fierce, deadly determined, ready to shoot, but showing, too, Markievicz’s isolation in prison and her belief in a better world.

The play’s ten women, some better known than others, each made their own unique contributions. As an audience, enjoying the performances, we also learned about these extraordinary people and their lives, without ever feeling that we were being taught.


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Ali Wright


Vault Festival 2019


Part of VAULT Festival 2019




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Indebted to Chance – 4 Stars

Indebted to Chance

Indebted to Chance

Old Red Lion Theatre

Reviewed – 8th November 2018


“an ingenious play about an extraordinary woman”


Mercurius Theatre’s Indebted to Chance explores the true story of Charlotte Charke, an 18th century actress, writer, and businesswoman who defied societal expectations of femininity and obedience. Known for “britches roles” (women playing male characters), Charke also frequently dressed in men’s clothing off-stage, and occasionally passed as a man. Author Charlie Ryall has mined Charke’s autobiography and come up with a funny, fresh, irresistibly interesting story about a woman who persists in doing what she wants, and being who she is, in spite of the considerable forces aligned against her.

Indebted to Chance interrogates the volatile relationships Charke (played by Ryall) has with her father (Andy Secombe) and her husband (Benjamin Garrison), and sheds light on her perhaps not-so-platonic feelings for the enigmatic Miss Brown (Beth Eyre) of her memoirs.

This is smart, fun, irreverent theatre. It is consistently funny and entertainingly self-aware. Ryall is canny in knowing when not to shy away from silliness (there’s nods to Monty Python and a memorable fish-slap). In an age where dark drama reigns, it’s a delight to find a performance that’s intelligent, relevant, opinionated, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

As the play mainly takes place in the theatre managed by Charke’s father, Ryall and director Jenny Eastop playfully approach the play-within-a-play scenario. The actors interact with the audience, cleverly acknowledging that we are both their 18th century audience, and their modern audience.

The performances are strong throughout. Ryall wins the audience over easily as the stubborn, acerbic, exasperated Charlotte Charke. There’s a genuineness to her that pulls you in. Garrison is convincing as the charming, emotionally abusive husband, and Lydia Bakelmun (playing Betty Careless), has wonderful comedic presence.

Eastop and designer Sunny D. Smith are highly efficient with the small space, minimal props, and a sparse set. Dangling ropes are creatively used to create a jail cell. The costuming is effective, and does the heavy lifting in transporting the play to the 1700s.

Some issues overall involve abrupt transitions that can be disorienting as the story jumps backward and forward in time, and weak central narrative. Indebted to Chance is more like a patchwork of scenes than a progressing story. It’s a testament to the strength of the characters and dialogue that the play never feels like it’s dragging.

Those wary of plays set pre-1900, due to the density of the language, needn’t be put off. The dialogue is calibrated for a modern audience, and is anything but dry. It’s skilfully written, clever, and very funny. The intermission break is a surprise – the first hour sails by. This is a two-hour performance that earns its runtime.

Indebted to Chance is an ingenious play about an extraordinary woman who refused to play by her society’s unfair rules. It’s sharp, it’s current, and it has an excellent sense of humour.


Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Chris Marchant


Indebted to Chance

Old Red Lion Theatre until 1st December


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Nightmares in Progress | ★★★½ | January 2018
Tiny Dynamite | ★★★★ | January 2018
Really Want to Hurt me | ★★★★ | February 2018
The Moor | ★★★★ | February 2018
Shanter | ★★★ | March 2018
Plastic | ★★★★★ | April 2018
In the Shadow of the Mountain | ★★ | May 2018
Tales from the Phantasmagoria | ★★★ | May 2018
I am of Ireland | ★★★ | June 2018
Lamplighters | ★★★★ | July 2018
Welcome Home | ★★★ | August 2018
Hear me Howl | ★★★★ | September 2018
That Girl | ★★★ | September 2018
Hedgehogs & Porcupines | ★★★ | October 2018
Phantasmagorical | ★★★ | October 2018
The Agency | ★★ | October 2018


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