Review: ‘Ladies in Bonnets’ and ‘Baggage’: Women’s Lives: Past and Present

By Jean Hill HAND in Hand Theatre presented The Woman’s Voice, which was two short pieces to celebrate both women in history and in the present.  Both were written and directed by Bev Clark and were performed at Melrose Hall, Hoylake, and Wallasey Central Library. ‘Ladies in Bonnets’ was a series of readings from Jane Austen’s novels, in commemoration of her death two hundred years ago. Jane Austen, performed by Holly Skelton, entertained the audience with details of the novelist’s life. The parallels between life and fiction were intriguing.  Bev Clark brought Austen’s gifts for wit and perception beautifully alive through a series of characters and memorable quotes including the wonderful observation that: ‘It was universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife’. Austen’s understanding of matters of the heart is wittily expressed in the novel Emma: ’A few minutes were sufficient for making her acquainted with her own heart. A mind like hers, once opening to suspicion, made rapid progress; she touched, she admitted, she acknowledged the whole truth…it darted through her with the speed of an arrow that Mr. Knightley must marry no one but herself’. The cast did full justice to Austen’s wonderful creations. ‘Baggage’ is a new play, written by Bev Clark, now published by New Flight Publications and available on Amazon. There are only two characters: a middle aged housewife ‘Sandra’ who was played by Susan Reeve and a homeless woman ‘Annie’, perhaps somewhat older, played by Geraldine Moloney Judge. They meet by chance by a bus stop, and that first meeting is beset with suspicion and misunderstanding. Sandra, exhausted, has fallen asleep and Annie thinks she may be ill, and is searching through her bag for ID. Sandra wakes up and believes she is being robbed, and makes the assumption that all homeless people are thieves. Annie ‘puts her right’ and from these unpromising beginnings, follows an exchange of confidences, a reassessment of gifts to be grateful for, and by the end, mutual understanding and the makings of a friendship. This is a play that educates the audience about some of the tragic life events that can lead to losing almost everything, and that the person is always worthy of respect. It was beautifully acted and very moving. Bev Clark has plans to have the play performed in Merseyside to a wider audience. It is a thoughtful, insightful piece and deserves a wider audience. Hand in Hand Theatre support ‘The Hope Project’ which is a charity helping the homeless of Liverpool. www.handinhandtheatreproductions.co.uk