The Militants by Norman Holland
Photographs included courtesy of Chris Shepeard.
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Review of The Militants in the Farnham Herald
Set in Lancashire in 1908, Norman Holland's sharply observed comedy drama The Militants was brought to vibrant life by Bourne Players in their Rowledge Village Hall home.
A cast of 14, plus extras, was somehow shoehorned into an ingenious set and cramped backstage accommodation to produce a highly competent, well-dressed and entertaining performance thanks in no small measure to Noel Thompson's skillful direction.
The plot centres on pompous, misogynistic and self-aggrandising Alderman Josiah Malin as mayor-elect of the town. Espousing the Liberal party cause and dismissing the political chances of his arch enemies, the Woman's Social and Political Union - the suffragettes - he is totally oblivious to the fact that his wife Lillian (Sara Rowe), their daughter Vivien and all other women connected to his household are active members of the movement.
Ian Wilson-Soppitt was totally convincing in the role, setting the pace in the opening act with an hilarious drunken duologue with Jim Trowers, who gave a masterly alcoholic cameo performance as Liberal agent Reuben Randall.
As the play develops, the local prospective MP, played by Richard Amero, eventually loses his seat but successfully woos Vivien (Helen Phillips), after evading the amorous attentions of Lillian's barmy sister Sophie (Penny Treeby) who then contributes to 'the cause' by burning down the new town hall.
The denouement sees Lillian revealing to the suffragette committee and, ultimately to the Alderman, that she is in fact Hippolyta - code name for the clandestine local WSPU leader.
Needless to say, come-uppance time saw the election lost, the Alderman deserted by his wife and daughter, ostracised by the town for influencing Sophie's sentencing and, finally, hounded out of his home by the militant suffragettes - a scene which had the audience in stitches.
Other notable highlights were the towering performance of Maureen Collins as the fanatical feminist, man-hating Lady Honoria with her timorous companion, Eulalia (Caryl Griffiths), and the de-bagging of PC Thomas Dougan (Robert Heasman) by the suffragette militants.
Overall, a well-rounded production with a host of other character roles successfully portrayed by members of the large cast.