Although permitted (albeit against strong opposition) to attend lectures, women were not actually allowed to graduate at that time, and it took considerable determination ( and a first class brain) for these exceptional women to overcome resistance and complete the demanding courses even without the reward of a degree at the end.
Swale has obviously done her research, mixing historical figures such as the pioneering psychiatrist Henry Maudsley (Edward Peel) – who maintained that intellectual pursuits would not only damage women’s health but also “incapacitate them for the adequate performance of the natural functions of their sex” – with her fictional quartet as they fight against the odds to combine romance (if they were lucky) and family commitments with intensive study, whilst Miss Welsh, the college principal, battles for their right to graduate alongside the men.
It all makes for an engaging and informative evening, with Ellie Piercy’s spirited Tess (a promising astrophysics student who falls for a Trinity undergraduate), Tala Gouveia’s sparky, privileged Carolyn, and Fergal McElherron’s sympathetic male lecturer who stands up for their right to learn particularly impressive in a timely debut play which makes one thankful that if women can’t have it all, they are, in most countries at least, no longer forced to choose between love and education.
Shakespeare’s Globe, New Globe Walk, Bankside, SE1 9DT
Tube | Blackfriars/ Mansion House/ London Bridge
Until 11th October
£5.00(Standing) £15.00 – £39.00
Photo: Manuel Harlan