“Moor’s writing is witty, heart-warming, and beautiful, brought to life by the delightful cast”
‘Dressing as men, upsetting the staff, and falsifying letters have led us to this!” tells you everything you need to know about Pitch Production’s Epiphany show, Women of the Manor by Kate Moor. An absolute triumph of student writing, this is not one to miss for all who love a bit of Shakespeare, a bit of the Platonic, and a lot of the Queer!
A take on the Renaissance comedy, Women of the Manor thrusts us directly into its action: the ladies of Sunwright Manor, Nadiya (Daisy Summerfield) and Isabelle (Neve Kidson), are quarrelling and we simply don’t know why. At the behest of Isabelle’s well-intentioned sister Celine (Isabel Bainbridge) the staff and old flame, Rebecca (Iqra Khadiza), concoct a series of plots to rekindle the two’s friendship. From swapping meals to perjury to cross-dressing and, finally, forgery, none will be stopped until the two ladies are amicable once more.
Moor’s writing is witty, heart-warming, and beautiful, brought to life by the delightful cast. Much needs to be said about the pairings in Women of the Manor, which champions a wonderful variety of different matches. The, at times, violent sparks of energy flowing between Summerfield and Kidson remind one of a modern-day platonic Beatrice and Benedict dynamic from Shakespeare’s Much Ado. It is incredibly refreshing to see space in the theatre for the exploration of friendship, particularly between women, when it is handled so amusingly and endearingly. Contrasting this fierceness are the gentle kindlings of a romance subplot between Fool, played by the magnetic Harry Threapleton, and Tess, the explosive Mopsy Peel. Yet, most enjoyable to watch of all was the dynamic duo of Bainbridge and Khadiza. Subtle glances and heart-wrenching confessions are contrasted by moments of delectable comedy – of note is one Sir Kerkylas of Andros in his brief but nonetheless enchanting role. The play’s concern with representing the variety of human relationships is wonderfully handled by its stellar cast.
Much needs to be said of the supporting troupe of actors who colour this production with vibrancy and zest. The staff of Sunwright Manor composed of the commanding Beth Phelan, as Cook, and the endearingly sweet May and Maid, played respectively by Paloma Hoyos and Caitlin Sinclair, offer an interesting dynamic. Caught between a rock and hard place, whilst still imbued with the comedic spine that runs throughout the play, the servants have to straddle the fine line of loyalty and duty. In this sense, one has to commend Moor’s attempt to rectify the problematic aspects of Shakespearean comedy. Unfortunately, the uncomfortable hierarchy of Sunwright Manor is only poked at, briefly, and sidestepped quickly by the dominant friendship plot. Nonetheless, the supporting actors added great pep and heart to an already charming story.
Co-directors Abby Greenhalgh and Ellie Thornton, assisted by Scout Pemberton, brought Moor’s writing to life. The staging was immersive, recreating an environment many students know, whilst allowing for pops of character to emerge in the wonderfully vibrant set dressing the audience could feast their eyes on. Most of the play’s action takes place in Hild Bede Chapel’s altar section. The space was used efficiently and appropriately such that the chaotic ensemble scenes never felt cramped, but a delight to watch. When characters did stray away from the altar, Moor’s words could be heard most clearly, as the unfortunately echoey nature of the chapel made some of Moor’s beautiful writing, at times, difficult to follow. Production Manager, Angus Webb Hammond, and lighting designer, Gemma Parker, brought a subtle yet appreciable lighting presence to the production. At times hinged with pink, the softness of the lights nicely complemented the touching action on stage.
Get yourselves to Hild Bede Chapel for a delightful evening of laughter and tears, Pitch Production’s Women of The Manor is an exceptional piece of student writing that deserves all of our attention.
By Maria Galimberti
Photo Credits: Pitch Productions