Out of Our Father's House
Excellent historical drama retells the history of America through the story of its women
This article is from 2016.
Red Compass Productions have made an active commitment to supporting women in all aspects of the theatre-making process: it naturally follows that their production of Out of Our Father's House has a clear focus on excluded female voices.
Taking the stories of seven women from the past 300 years, the four-strong ensemble summon up lost episodes and heroines from American history. Directed by Marya Mazor, and adapted from Eve Merriam's book Growing Up Female in America by the author, Paula Wagner and Jack Hofsiss, the play draws upon material from diaries, letters, and historical documents.
At times, the rapid barrage of characters and exposition can confuse, with only prop and costume motifs identifying changes of character, as each cast member takes on multiple roles. Fortunately, however, they all excel in their delivery and shift nimbly from ensemble to leading roles.
The intelligent structuring of the stories – which provides a context for each character, and introduces them with a wash of folk music – combines with interludes of singing to take advantage of theatre's potential to bring history to vivid life. Various short vignettes, such as when Maria Mitchell, America's first professional female astronomer watches a glowing firmament of fairy light stars and spies the comet that will come to bear her name, are illuminated by attention to detail and arresting imagery.
But the more expansive scenes are profound and resonant: from a mop-and-bucket-wielding army of women jeering off the defectors from the labour movement, to a spine-chilling moment of pure theatricality conjuring an overnight stagecoach journey.
As a piece of historical and political theatre, Out of Our Father's House triumphs in preserving the significance of its inspirational figures and realising them in a way that gives them contemporary relevance.
Gilded Balloon Tevoit, until 28 Aug, 12.15pm, £10–12.