Saturday the 25th April, I had a real treat, I went to see the one-woman play, ‘Edith, Elizabeth and I’ at the Harrogate studio theatre. I say one-woman, but it didn’t feel that way, as the main premise of the piece is an imagined conversation the creator-actor Jules Craig has with poet Edith Sitwell. Oh and another feisty woman makes an appearance, Queen Elizabeth the first.
The one-hour we spend in the company of these remarkable women is intense, fast-paced and, by moments, funny and poignant. Yes we learn something about Edith Sitwell’s life and we hear some of her poetry and words deftly delivered by Craig. However, this is biography on the slant, and all the more enjoyable and rich for that. As we are pulled into the piece, we really begin to believe we are privy to an intriguing tête-à-tête, as Craig skilfully inhabits Edith and Elizabeth and nimbly moves from one to the other to herself, and back again.
Above all, the performance is thought-provoking. When we set out to tell another’s stories, are we, in fact, only finding a way of telling our own? What parts do gender, childlessness and love play in a woman’s creative life? How do we reconcile the roles we play with the real us hiding behind the mask?
Jules Craig told the Yorkshire Post (14th April 2015): ‘Edith was very much an individual who forged her own path and that’s part of what I am celebrating in the piece – being your own person, even if you are living outside of society slightly.’
‘Edith, Elizabeth and I’ took some time in the research and development stage. Jules explained to the YP, ‘Telling someone else’s tale will always come with the responsibility of trying to do them justice, and inevitably, by looking at other people’s lives, you will get to know more about yourself. I do feel very protective about her. You never get to know someone completely, and the play is through my own filter, but I feel that I have a better understanding of the woman behind the façade.’
Supported by the Arts Council ‘Edith, Elizabeth and I’, directed by Sian Webber, written and performed by Jules Craig, has been on a short tour. I do hope further performances around the country will give others the opportunity to be as captivated as I was.
Jules Craig’s website is www.edithwho.org.uk.