The Ladies’ Cage
Scary Little Girls’ third fringe production was a piece of specially commissioned new writing and was performed at the Finborough Theatre, London in 2007. Read on for full background details of the project, including links to press reviews and sound files of interviews on Women’s Hour and BBC Radio Manchester.
Inspired by the life of Anna Parnell, a brilliant young Anglo-Irish woman drawn into political action by the threat of a new famine in Ireland, The Ladies’ Cage tells the story of the 18 months when Anna founded and ran the Ladies Land League, following the banning of the Land League and the imprisonment of the men who ran it.
Watching her older brother, Charles, become a leading political light and thorn in the British side, Anna dreams of playing her own active role in freeing the Irish from the medieval landlord system and the women of her generation from the “ladies’ cage” that imprisons them.
Her dream suddenly becomes a reality when she is entrusted by her brother to set up a Ladies’ version of the Land League during his imprisonment at the hands of the British. Though the men have demanded that the women maintain “a semblance of order” only, Anna and her all-female executive take the Land War in a radical new direction, pioneering the vision of a fairer Ireland for all… a vision the men had barely imagined.
The Ladies Land League became such a political force and centre for social unrest that it was a forerunner of the Irish Nationalist and Sufferage movements, and the earliest practitioner of the non-violent direct action made so famous 100 years later by the women of Greenham Common.
However, upon their release from prison, the male executive – led by Anna’s brother, Charles Stewart Parnell – force the women out of their leadership roles and out of politics. Indeed, the women are forcibly excluded from political organisations for the next twenty years.
Anna and her brother never regained the close relationship of their childhood – after the disbanding of the Ladies Land League, Anna never spoke to Charles again.
The project was borne of the joint interests of producer, Rebecca Mordan and eminent historian and politician, Margaret Ward.
Rebecca founded Scary Little Girls Productions with the aim of creating powerful theatrical extravaganzas from the stories of the marginalised, forgotten or repressed. Recognising that these are so often women’s stories, Rebecca’s search for material soon brought her to Unmanageable Revolutionaries. Like much of Professor Ward’s academic research, this book champions the women omitted from the historical accounts of the resistance in Ireland.
After being contacted by Rebecca, Professor Ward provided SLGP with hitherto unseen research and documentation. Moreover, Professor Ward has remained a key part of the development of the project since its conception.
It soon became apparent that a writer with both humour and sensitivity – as well as an understanding of Irish dialogue – was needed to invest the characters with the life and warmth their actions so richly deserved. Following a process of interviews and written submissions, Maureen McManus was chosen to undertake the project, her wit and poetic understanding of language combining with her Irish heritage to make her the ideal artist for such an undertaking.
Finally, Scary Little Girls were very excited to add John Terry to the team as director. Having fallen in love with his work when watching Lark Rise in Candleford and Soldiers, Rebecca was delighted when John offered to work on developing the project. This process was so successful, and the relationship between Maureen and John so rewarding artistically, that Scary Little Girls immediately engaged John to direct the finished script.
The company are currently in talks with several leading venues about the co-production of this project for 2007 – watch this space or contact us for this final discion or if you are an exceptional producer interested in taking forward this remarkable story with us!
Set against the injustices of early 1880s Ireland, The Ladies’ Cage uncovers a hidden chapter in the history of a movement for change known as the Land League. It charts a remarkable period in which women took over the League – during its leaders’ imprisonment – and turned it into a highly effective force.