Blue Stockings

Theatre, West End
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 (© Manuel Harlan)
© Manuel Harlan

'Blue Stockings' at the Globe Theatre.

 (© Manuel Harlan)
© Manuel Harlan

'Blue Stockings' at the Globe Theatre.

 (© Manuel Harlan)
© Manuel Harlan

'Blue Stockings' at the Globe Theatre.

 (© Manuel Harlan)
© Manuel Harlan

'Blue Stockings' at the Globe Theatre.

 (© Manuel Harlan)
© Manuel Harlan

'Blue Stockings' at the Globe Theatre.

 (© Manuel Harlan)
© Manuel Harlan

'Blue Stockings' at the Globe Theatre.

There’s been more than a note of feminist insurrection in the air lately: the summer was marked by robust backlashes against Twitter trolls and twerkers, while comic Bridget Christie just scooped top award at the Edinburgh Fringe with her sexism-baiting ‘A Bic for Her’. And as autumn havers into view, this writing debut from director Jessica Swale fits the mood just perfectly.

Set in 1898, ‘Blue Stockings’ concerns the hurdles faced by the first generation of women to attend Cambridge University. At its best, John Dove’s production is a classic Globe rabble-rouser, the audience whooping deliriously as the quartet of student heroines stick it to the various caddish men who would oppose them.

Swale made her name directing outrageously enjoyable updates of Restoration comedies, and she’s got a good eye for a big character. Her chief protagonist is Tess (Ellie Piercy), a brilliant young astrophysics undergraduate, tormented by the knowledge that she will have to give up any hopes of a ‘respectable’ life in order to become a scientist. She’s joined by Tala Gouveia’s Carolyn (the posh free-spirit), Olivia Ross’s Celia (the goody two shoes) and Molly Logan’s Maeve (the enigma).

Via the prism of the quartet’s exploits, Swale shines a light on some shocking recesses of our recent history – women who went to university during the reign of Queen Vic faced social ostracism at almost every level, and weren’t even awarded degree certificates for their efforts. ‘Blue Stockings’ conveys the injustice of the time without slipping into diatribe – the message may be serious, but the mode is a funny, feisty show about undergrad antics.

Yet for all this, it’s strangely lacking in direction. Though the story builds to a university-wide vote upon the issue of degrees for women, the four heroines feel peripheral to this process; in fact the biggest plot driver is the series of disappointingly conventional romantic dilemmas faced by Tess. It’s spirited good fun, but what might have been an absolute barnstormer of a night feels awkwardly in thrall to romcom convention.

By Andrzej Lukowski


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What a sublime performance! The play is perfectly posed in it's open air setting where many of the scenes are placed in the orchard, continuously represented by a bench in the thrust added to the Globe stage, and a sense of freedom as well as restriction for the ladies who were both given a chance to learn but are stopped from being curious and interested as students are supposed to be, by the men who fight against them. Ellie Piercy is sterling as Tess Moffat, an outspoken student who finds it difficult to cope with the restraints put on her by the Professors and her feelings for Ralph, a fellow sciences student, who ultimately breaks her heart. Luke Thompson is endearing and heart warming as Will, Tess' childhood friend, who gradually over the course of the play realises that he loves her and she loves him. With a sterling supporting cast around them, generating a range of responses from mirth to anger, the whole play is something that can only be described as beautiful. An incredible first play from Jessica Swale and one that will undoubtedly be remembered by those who go to see it.


Drama, comedy, all in one! not boring at all! It was fun and amazing performance from all the cast!.. Totally loved it!

Lucinda Craig

What a great play. Fun, informative and thought - provoking. My 15 year old who came along reluctantly ( been turned off by long school Shakespeare trips) greatly enjoyed it. I've been reading about Girton and Newnham today triggered by this. Didn't, really understand the music at start and finish. Pace, cast and set all fitting and the whole seemed made for The Globe. More please!

Alex Reeve

Blue stockings and books adorning the Globe's twin pillars serve as a somewhat less than subliminal clue as to what's in store for you. The musical warm-up, with a trio playing songs including the ever popular 'Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do', helped place us chronologically, so when the play finally started, we were well prepared to meet the four young ladies at the outset of their education at Girton College in the 1890s, It seemed pretty good at first: their first lecture on forces was impressive: the inter-play of script, prop and student-centred learning was a joy to behold on. Their next lecture was grittier. The education and social experience of the four women fluctuated between these two extremes: from the fun of outwitting the chaperon and convention to find love, to the distress of discovering its many guises, coping with outrageous misogyny, riotous assembly and the forgotten reality of a woman's lot in the not too distance past. Their achievement was an education and a simple determination to carry on for it to be recognised: a woman's lot was not a happy one. Verdict: an excellent play and one that held me enchanted throughout.

Connie Willcocks

Fantastic evening, full of laughter, bo's, hisses and many poignant moments, all young women should see this and realise what women had to face in order to get an education. After watching the play I think there should be a campaign to rename the Maudsley Hospital.