DISCUSSING THE NORTHERN PREMIERE PRODUCTION OF GITHA SOWERBY’S THE STEPMOTHER WITH DIRECTOR, MAGGIE SMALES
York Settlement Community Players (YSCP) are the first theatre company to bring Githa Sowerby’s rarely performed play, ‘The Stepmother’ to the North of England. When YSCP announced their intention to stage one of Sowerby’s plays, as part of the York Theatre Royal’s spring 2014 programme, St Peter’s School Drama Teacher, Maggie Smales, jumped at the chance.
“Githa Sowerby is a name that is little known and much of her work (apart from Rutherford and Son) has been long neglected. I am delighted to be working with YSCP and, of course, Githa Sowerby’s Official Biographer, Pat Riley, who has brought a wealth of information about Githa’s life and work into the rehearsal space, so that we can create a well-informed and exciting production”, says Maggie, whose production of ‘The Stepmother’ is running from the 5-15 March in the Studio at York Theatre Royal.
Maggie goes on to explain: “On my first reading of this play, I was struck by how clearly Githa points towards the future. She makes hardly any reference at all to the wider world outside of the family house. Even the First World War, that has occurred between the prologue of the play and act one, is only glancingly mentioned! Rather, the script is littered with references to domestic and social change, surrounding the dispute that ultimately reveals Eustace’s actions towards his wife Lois, his daughter Monica, and their economic future.”
‘The Stepmother’ follows the story of Lois Relph, an orphaned young woman, who inherits a large sum of money and subsequently marries Eustace Gaydon, whose sole purpose is to get his hands on her newly acquired wealth. Having made Lois his wife, and the stepmother to his two young daughters, to what further lengths will Eustace go, in order to maintain his financial status?
Summing up ‘The Stepmother’, Maggie says: “The play discusses a future beyond the Edwardian period. A future where a woman might be independent, able to manage her family’s welfare and finances and, at the same time, be a successful business woman in her own right. Not that the personal relationships we have today aren’t still blighted by socio-economic factors, prejudices, bias and selfishness. Many will recognise these contemporary situations and conversations as they watch the play!”
“For these reasons, our production of ‘The Stepmother’ needed a really strong cast to bring out all of the elements involved in the play”, suggests Maggie, “We are currently in the full flow of rehearsals and I am lucky to be working with a great team, who are bringing a freshness and vitality to Githa’s work. It is a joy to be working on ‘The Stepmother’ with them.”
Maggie goes on to say, “Githa Sowerby’s writing is outstanding and the influence of Henrik Ibsen is particularly clear in her concept for the role of Lois Relph. Sowerby’s work has also been likened to that of Chekhov and Dickens – so, if you like their writing, you will almost certainly like Githa’s! Moreover, this is an intense play that takes you right inside a marriage of convenience, giving the audience an ‘in-the-room’ experience of how this personal situation plays out for everyone involved, particularly for the central character, Lois.”
Tickets for York Settlement Community Players’ production of The Stepmother are £10-£12 plus a £1 transaction fee per booking. Tickets can be purchased from York Theatre Royal’s Box Office in person, or over the telephone, by ringing 01904 623568 or securely online at www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk. This is the first time that ‘The Stepmother’ has been performed in the North of England and is a production not to be missed!