Following this month’s outing for Joseph Crilly’s On McQuillan’s Hill, another “lost” Irish play will get an overdue premiere as part of the Finborough Theatre’s 40th-anniversary season.
More than 80 years after it premiered in Dublin, Hazel Ellis‘ Women Without Men at last gets its UK premiere with a strictly limited four-week season, running at the Finborough from 28 April to 23 May 2020, with press nights on 30 April and 1 May.
Ireland in the 1930s… When enthusiastic young teacher Jean Wade arrives at Malyn Park Private School, she thinks she’s landed on her feet: lively pupils, cosy staffroom, and a room of her own. But her high ideals and friendly manner bring her into conflict with the sharp-tongued staff, whose cloistered existences are consumed by jealousy, bickering and petty feuds.
When a colleague’s precious manuscript is destroyed, Jean’s future comes under threat, but she soon realises the truth isn’t always black and white.
With a cast of eleven women, Women Without Men is a frank, affecting picture of working women in a man’s world. Laced with biting wit, it asks just what women must sacrifice to preserve our independence.
A stunning early play by a pioneer female playwright, Women Without Men was originally produced at the Gate Theatre, Dublin in 1938, and was first rediscovered by Mint Theatre Company in New York City in 2016 where it was nominated for the Lucille Lortel Award and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Play.
This new production marks the play’s first UK production as well as the first European production for more than eighty years.
It’s part of an ongoing informal sharing partnership between the Finborough and the Mint Theatre Company (under Artistic Director Jonathan Bank), which, like the Finborough, specialises in bringing forgotten plays to a new audience. Previous swaps include the Mint Theatre’s 2014 revival of John Van Druten’s London Wall, following its rediscovery at the Finborough Theatre in 2013.
Women Without Men is directed in London by Laura Jayne Bateman, making her Finborough debut. It’s produced by Bateman’s company Early Bird, which also has a focus on “bringing neglected voices and forgotten stories to the stage”.
2020 is the Finborough Theatre’s 40th anniversary year, and we’re thrilled to announce another season of vibrant new writing and unique rediscoveries that you can’t see anywhere else…#finborough40 pic.twitter.com/4cHhiXNOHO
— Finborough Theatre (@finborough) December 2, 2019
Playwright Hazel Ellis (1909-1986) was born in Dublin. She attended the French School of Bray, a Protestant girls’ boarding school, which provided the inspiration for Women Without Men. She studied at Trinity College Dublin, then trained as an actress at the Abbey Theatre, before joining the acting ensemble at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, in 1929.
She wrote her first play at the age of twenty-five, Portrait in Marble, inspired by the life of Lord Byron, which opened at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, in 1936. Women Without Men, her second play, premiered at the Gate in 1938, directed by the Gate’s co-founder Hilton Edwards, with a cast including Mary Maloney, May Carey and Peggy Cummins. At the age of thirty, Ellis gave up acting and writing to get married and have children. She died in 1986.
Director Laura Jayne Bateman makes her Finborough Theatre debut, following her successful production of Mark Starling’s new play Target Man at King’s Head Theatre. Direction includes Resume Play (Katzpace), Madison High (Arcola Theatre), ROGER (Southwark Playhouse), Monster Munch (White Bear Theatre), Jane Eyre (Above the Arts), To See Ourselves (LAMDA) and a sell-out new adaptation of The Great Gatsby (Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Nottingham Lakeside Arts). Assistant Direction includes We’re Staying Right Here (Park Theatre), Oedipus the King and Hubbub: A Musical Adventure (Nottingham Lakeside Arts). Laura trained on the MA Directing programme at LAMDA.
Women Without Men runs from 28 April to 23 May 2020 at the Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Rd, Kensington, London SW10 9ED, with performances Tuesdays to Sundays at 7.30pm, matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are priced £16-20. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!