2016 – The Price

Liberty has a price.  And someone paid that price for you.

These days we tend to take for granted those rights which were earned the hard way through struggle and sacrifice.  The Price brings politics alive and makes it personal, by taking us back in time to witness the story of the Suffragettes, the Pankhurst family and the events which led up to Derby Day 1913.  In a year where politics has taken centre stage, The Price is entertaining, relevant and fun for the whole family.

Composer Russell Hepplewhite, Librettist Helen Eastman

Music Director Philip Sunderland, Director Susan Moore, Choreographer Maggie Rawlinson, Set Design Neil Irish, Costume Design Anett Black, Production Management eStage

The Price – A Synopsis

A polling station on Election Day. The time is now. People are passing down the street outside.

A News Crew arrive and start filming. Their presenter Sierz reminds us that this is a momentous day. Two other News Crews arrive. Three returning Officers are setting up the polling station and declare it open.

Four groups of Campaigners burst onto the scene, imploring us to vote for their party. The returning Officers encourage people to vote, and as they do, we hear and see the voices of the Ballot Boxes sing.

Sierz is on-camera, asking people how they voted. She stops two young girls, Jess and Nora. They say they didn’t vote: it’s ‘not their thing’. Sierz is incensed and mutters about the ‘luxury’ of not voting. They ask her what she means and she starts to tell them a story…

Suddenly it’s 1912 and the polling station becomes a community hall where a Suffragette meeting is taking place. Sierz, Jess and Nora watch on as the women sing, and Emmeline Pankhurst gives a rousing call to action. She has decided that the time for peaceful protest is over – they are being ignored – and physical action must be taken. Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney agree with her, but Millicent Fawcett disagrees and insists they must continue to protest peacefully: ‘violence is never the answer’. A young Emily Wilding Davison is in the crowd and inspired. By the end of the meeting the crowd are with Emmeline, and chanting ‘Deeds not Words’.

Enter the Bobbies, who tell us of the skirmishes and violence now erupting – and the time they are spending arresting suffragettes. They don’t approve.

The Paperboy rushes across the stage to report that 43 suffragettes have been arrested.

We move to the courtroom, where the Judge is sentencing the women. Many individuals and groups of Suffragettes are being sentenced for a number of different crimes (all of which did happen). They all plead guilty. They have the option to pay a fine or go to prison. They choose prison as part of their protest. When Christabel, Emmeline’s daughter, chooses prison, her mother tries to pay the fine for her, but Christabel won’t hear of it. She reminds her mother that they are campaigning for all their daughters. Emmeline wishes Richard, her late husband and a great campaigner for suffrage, was still alive.

Jess and Nora have been watching this and discuss whether the violence was justified.

We move to prison, where Annie, Emily, Christabel and Emmeline are in separate cells and sing of their loneliness, and defiance. They imagine a different future. We hear the Ballot Boxes welcoming all, including women, to vote.

The late Richard Pankhurst appears – as a young man. We hear him rehearsing his speech to parliament, introducing the ‘Married Women’s Property Act’. Richard and Emmeline sing a duet, about their love, and their political struggle.

Back to Holloway prison where more Suffragettes are locked up and singing defiantly that they won’t give up. They are released for communal exercise, and there they make a plan to go on hunger strike.

Jess and Nora ask Sierz to explain this.

The women are getting weaker. Emily Wilding Davison tries to barricade herself into her cell, but the prison guards flood her out.

We see a discussion between the P.M., Asquith, and civil servant, Marston in the corridors of power; Marston has an idea: ‘The prisoner’s temporary discharge for ill-health’ bill’. It will allow them to discharge any very ill hunger strikers, so there are no deaths in prison, but if the women reoffend, they’ll be straight back into prison. They nickname this the ‘cat and mouse’ bill.

Meanwhile, we see Richard delivering his paper to Parliament. The Paperboy announces the ‘cat and mouse’ bill, and the Bobbies on the beat are continuously arresting and discharging the same women. Millicent reminds us that violence is not the answer, but Emmeline is committed to this course of action. The women are getting weaker.  Emily starts to consider that the cause may need a martyr.

We visit Lady Z and Lady J who are taking tea in their drawing room. These women are utterly disapproving of the ‘unladylike’ suffragettes. They hear a protest outside and a stone comes flying through their window and smashes it. It is wrapped in a piece of paper which says ‘Deeds not Words’. They call a servant to clear up the mess, and head to the races.

We are at Epsom Derby Day and the Race Crowd are arriving in their frocks and hats. The Bookies are taking bets and use a tic-tac sign to communicate with each other. The race begins… with the Race Commentator describing what is happening as the race crowd watch…

Suddenly the race has been interrupted. A woman has walked onto the course and tried to stop the King’s horse. She has been trampled underfoot. It is Emily.

Shock and silence. Emily appears above the stage and reminds us of her belief that the cause needed a martyr. This is ‘the price’ that must be paid for suffrage.

The Paperboy announces what has happened.

We see the King and Queen. He is writing in his diary about what a disappointing day it was at the races. She sends a telegram to the jockey riding the King’s horse, to check he is unharmed.

Nora and Jess ask Sierz whether Emily was ok. They learn that she died. They wonder if she meant to kill herself or not.

The scene moves to Emily’s funeral. The Suffragettes are singing and laying flowers. Emmeline makes a speech.

Nora and Jess inspired to go into the polling station and vote. They mark their ballot papers, and place them in the ballot box.