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My Ladies, Lords and Gentlemen! WNO cordially invites you to this brand-new, rip-roaring, uproarious musical comedy.
This tongue in cheek entertainment has been created for your delectation by the illustrious Ms Elena Langer (composer and suffragette) and the inimitable Ms Emma Jenkins (librettist and suffragette); Directed by Caroline Clegg and conducted by Nicola Rose.
It is our great pleasure to take you on an unforgettable journey through the life and adventures of that unsung heroine of the Welsh Suffrage movement, Margaret Haig Thomas, the Viscountess Rhondda.
Suffragette, activist and entrepreneur, Lady Rhondda paved the way for the equal rights for women. As well as campaigning tirelessly for women’s suffrage, she became the lightning rod for women’s efforts during WW1, survived the sinking of the Lusitania and created the radical feminist magazine Time and Tide. Her indefatigable efforts and endeavours were finally rewarded when, in 1918, women over the age of thirty were enfranchised.
This thigh-slapping romp through the world of suffrage and song is told through the lens of music-hall and fittingly sports an all-female cast and creative team. The audience will be guided through the story by our very own Emcee (Lesley Garrett) following the escapades of Lady Rhondda (Madeleine Shaw) and her brave battalion of suffragettes as they fearlessly takes on Peers, politicians and post-boxes in their struggle for women’s rights.
WNO will showcase this woman’s fight for liberty, survival and equality in a number of ways: from community events, talks and schools workshops to exhibitions, interactive digital experiences as well as the production itself.
I defy anyone not to be swept away by this rule-breaking production. It’s bursting with irreverent joy.
Theatre in Wales
…Welsh National Opera has got itself a hit
Cast & Creative
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The story opens in the present day at the triumphant hanging of the portrait of Lady Rhondda in the House of Lords, as she posthumously takes-up her rightful place that she'd been denied during her life on the grounds of her sex.
We then segue back in time, under the expert guidance of Emcee (Lesley Garrett), to 1908 and the Temperance Hall in Newport …
Margaret returns in a blaze of glory from the famous suffragette rally at Hyde Park and marshalls the ladies of Newport to start their own branch of the WSPU. Inspired by the work of the Pankhursts, she begins her own campaign by organising rallies, attacking politicians and even setting fire to a Newport post box.
The latter escapade results in her being carted off to jail, although in true aristocratic style, she does so in a chauffeur driven limousine!
Prison only serves to sharpen her resolve and when she is released, she redoubles her efforts. She meets and falls in love with journalist Helen Archdale who becomes her partner and inspiration in the fight for women’s suffrage.
When war breaks out, she seizes the opportunity to galvanise women and becomes a kind of female Field Marshall Haig; recruiting for the WAAC and organising women to serve their country in every conceivable way. Incredibly she survives the sinking of the Lusitania when returning from a business trip to America.
When the War ends, she once again focuses all her energy on the ultimate goal of the enfranchisement of women.
She does not rest until this is achieved and in 1918 when she - along with all other women over thirty - finally have the right to place their cross on the ballot slip and vote in a general election.
Rhondda Rips It Up! and surrounding activity is supported by:
The Nicholas John Trust, in memory of Joan Moody
Associated British Ports, South Wales - proud sponsor of the World Premiere performance of Rhondda Rips It Up!
Gwendoline and Margaret Davies Charity
The Leche Trust
The Joan Coates Charitable Trust
WNO's performances at the Hackney Empire, London are supported by The John S Cohen Foundation
WNO's performance at the Oxford Playhouse is supported by Sian Thomas Marshall
WNO Rhondda Union