A little war between exceptional women on the Brighton stage
As Joseph explains: “A soirée in the French Alps in 1940 unites celebrated writers Gertrude Stein, Alice B Toklas, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker and Agatha Christie with a mysterious guest. France is hours away from falling to Germany, antisemitism is sweeping across Europe and a little war is brewing among these exceptional women as they battle each other, their own personal demons and the question of what meaningful difference individual actions can make against the tide of war, prejudice and genocide.
“This play came to me wholly by accident and I was immediately drawn to it. Never before have I read or seen a play with such an abundance of powerful and fully developed depictions of women. So often we find merely one or two female characters in a play that are strong and complex and defined by so much more than their gender, with so much of our dramatic history being under the stewardship of men.
“Here we have an all-female cast of seven, with each character bringing a piece to the story in a way that a man simply couldn’t. These women are, all but one, based on literary royalty and have immensely challenging personal stories to tell. The meeting of these women may well be fictional, but their lives were not and this play explores their histories in such a deep and affecting way against the backdrop of Europe crumbling under Nazi expansion.
“The hard subjects of war, genocide and violence against women in this play are framed by the horrors and brutality experienced by Jews in the Second World War, but the themes are timeless and ever more relevant now in a modern world where we continue to prove our inability to learn from our historical mistakes. As was the case then, we should all be asking ourselves now what difference we can make as individuals if we want to contribute to and honour our collective responsibility. These are the questions asked of the characters and we are treated to their insights and experiences as we are invited to consider the uglier sides of humanity.
“I have never seen such a varied and experienced mix of talent all coming together in such unified passion to tell a story like this. We have enticed the very best of our membership into this fascinating show. We have familiar faces, both old and new, and some impressive new blood too. We have also had the immense honour to have the playwright Steven Carl McCasland on board to consult and support through the whole process all the way from New York. He heard we were putting on his play in what will be only the second UK performance and he got in touch to offer anything he could to help us. He is so excited to see us bring his script to life and his passion has been such a gift.”