Review: SUFFRAGETTE CITY, London Pavilion

By: Mar. 15, 2018
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Review: SUFFRAGETTE CITY, London Pavilion

Review: SUFFRAGETTE CITY, London Pavilion It's not every day you get to be shuffled through a tiny green door in the lower-ground floor of a Money Exchange in Piccadilly Circus and, quite literally, enter the Suffragettes' world. "Are you prepared for a long or short sentence?" they ask, and so you are thrown into a frenzy of missions and painted rocks in the depths of the London Pavilion.

The National Trust has re-created the headquarters of the movement, a prison, and a tearoom inspired by the collections of The National Archives. The accurate reconstruction of the spaces gives the immediate vibe of jumping through time to the 1910s. Specifically, the production takes inspiration from the involvement in the party of Lillian Ball, a dressmaker and mother from Tooting who defied the authorities.

Photos of women, maps and slogans plaster the walls in the dimly lit basement as the participants are asked to choose an alias in case they get arrested. Tasks are assigned and the newly enlisted Suffragettes either embark on a short walk to accomplish their assignments or prepare signs and banners, depending on the levels of commitment they're ready to provide.

A thoroughly immersive experience, Suffragette City certainly requires a good dose of active participation and willingness to play the game to be fully enjoyed. From engaging with the Suffragettes (Ariane Barnes, Natasha Langridge, and Eleonora Russo), to standing up to the arresting officer (Canavan Connolly) and talking back to the police (Edward Andrews, Ralph Bogard, Padraig Lynch), it's mostly based on reception and prompts.

The adventure largely depends on the choices of the individuals, which can lead them to being locked in a prison with the group as opposed to harsh (but always respectfully carried out) one-on-ones with the actors. The performers are unquestionably excellent skilled improvisers when provoked by the audience, who are generally unafraid of defying the authority of their characters and lending support to the others.

The event sparks excitement but also manages to convey a sense of confidentiality, triggering deeper reactions and reflections in the attendees. Designers, directors and producers Helen Scarlett O'Neill and Harry Ross take the audience through the daily occurrences of the Suffragette movement in a safe environment, while showing them just a small part of the dangers of the fight for women's rights.

The performance piece is deeply impactful and gorgeously curated to the smallest detail, displaying huge dedication from the clothes to the environment. One hundred years after the partial grant of the vote to women, it's a fascinating and rather hands-on way to learn about how they made history.

Suffragette City is at London Pavilion until 25 March.

Photo credit: Oskar Proctor