pilot theatre presents

21 June 2017 – 1 July 2017

Everything Is Possible (2017)

"An extraordinary community production"

The Observer

Outside York Minster, a pro-democracy demonstration is under way. A young woman with a guitar urges her listeners: “Rise up!” Suffragettes appear, ghostly, from a purple haze to take the stand: “Real hope takes hard graft. That’s the kind of hope that makes miracles,” proclaims one. Bridget Foreman’s Everything Is Possible, as directed by Juliet Forster and Katie Posner, is moving in more ways than one: we follow the suffragettes along the pavements to the theatre.

This extraordinary community production, created by York Theatre Royal and Pilot Theatre along with about 300 local people, celebrates the successes and commemorates the sufferings of suffragettes in York between 1912 and 1918. Based on true events, it is centred around the experiences of the only York suffragette to have been imprisoned: Annie Seymour Pearson, played with luminous clarity by Barbara Marten – one of the initiators of the project. Astonishingly, given the quality of the performances, Marten is the only professional actorin a cast of 12 main characters and up to 150 others.

Sara Perks’s design and Prema Mehta’s lighting play with stage levels and depths and combine historic newsreel footage and live actors. The resulting images are live in the memory. Some are dramatic – tumultuous crowds; some affecting – women working in isolation; some shocking – hunger strikers being force-fed; some slapstick funny – Keystone Cop-style chases.

The resonances between past and present set up at the beginning echo through the action, as the women argue the need for pay parity with men, for politicians to listen. At the play’s close, projections of TV coverage of our own recent elections play across men and women casting their votes. Seymour Pearson watches. The vote, she says, was “a first step”. A group of contemporary young women take up the theme: “Equality - from that, everything follows.”

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