In 1913, the Great Pilgrimage of the British Suffragist movement marched through Britain over six weeks, finally converging in a 50,000-strong Hyde Park rally. On route, they marched through Oxford for a rally and speeches in Oxford Town Hall. This moment and setting is the spark to start Oxford Playhouse’s 17|25 Young Company’s tumble through history, to the present day, on the march to not just suffrage, but equal representation, at every level.
The staging is simple; utilitarian boxes in suffragist (and suffragette) colours. This first scene explores the struggles of two waitresses in a Perkins café, Verity and Lily May, played with sympathy and sensitivity by Evlyn Lloyd and Iszy Rathbone, are unable to even join the march, caught between the demands of family, income, and home. A full cast music-and-dance number then marched through the decades to scene two, the first Women’s Liberation Conference held in Ruskin College, Oxford in 1970. The young actors worked hard to convey the stresses of making proper political difference while juggling the demands of bodies, relationships, and growing awareness of international inequalities. Tom Ackland as a semi-decent boyfriend urging his girl to be realistic provided a powerful force to push against; Jess Williams, as an unnamed delegate, provided an honest, liberated laugh in her unalloyed enthusiasm for the cause.
A third scene, set in the political office of a minor minister (Andrea Pinedo) brought to her senses by the plight of a refugee woman (Jess Williams) frayed the march towards equality out into the multiple demands of present injustice, and the recriminations exchanged between those passionate for diverse causes. There were enough chairs for those in need, but the audience were encouraged to stand, and join the march through history, towards equality, and gather for a final round of rousing speeches at the end.