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Thought provoking theatre that challenges us to think again

The Play’s the Thing Theatre Company have been producing top niche, thought provoking theatre in Milton Keynes for over 15 years; exploring subjects that encourage us to discuss, challenge, make meaning and sense of what we see.

Written by exclusively female playwrights, Hidden Stories, is a double bill of new one-act plays that deal with the true-life experience of two women sentenced to death for murder.

Now You See Me, written and performed by Carly Halse, follows the story of Ruth Ellis, an attractive nightclub hostess and former glamour model who was the last woman to be hanged in England. Whilst she admits to the murder of her lover David Blakely, what appears to have been overlooked by the justice system is the controlling, abusive and brutal behaviour she suffered at his hands and that just days before the murder, he had violently beaten her causing her to miscarry their child.

Ruth even blames her own “provoking, prodding and nagging for David’s behaviour” and protects her other boyfriend Desmond Cussen, who gives her the solution and means (a gun – “I didn’t ask for it”) even driving her to the scene of the crime, but was never even questioned.

Darlint Peidi by Rosemary Hill, with a wonderfully convincing and sensitive performance by Lisa Stenhouse, explores the story of Edith Thompson, who in 1923 was executed along with her young lover Freddy Bywaters for the murder of her husband. She and Freddy declared she knew nothing of the intention to murder her husband and was not involved. Edith was judged as an immoral seductress and with no evidence to her involvement, appears to have been convicted on the age gap between herself and Bywaters, her letters dreaming of a life together and adultery.

I have come to expect nothing but a truly professional performance from Director Rosemary Hill and her company The Play’s the Thing, and once again they deliver.

These stories are set in a prison cell (designed by the very talented Kevin Jenkins) with evocative music from the times; both of which draw our focus in on the drama enabling the actors to build their worlds through their words.

Compellingly and sensitively acted, they explore the manipulation, violence, prejudice and miscarriages of justice carried out against women, as well prejudice, misogyny and inequality of our legal system and the wider community and challenge us to question whether things have really moved on in any way at all.

The Q&A session at the end was equally enjoyable and informative and gave us insight into how the plays came about, the research methods used.

Review by Shahnaz (Shiny) Hussain


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