Runtime: 2h 00m
Three one-act plays, unseen in London for over a century, get an airing at the Finborough this week. The two plays of the title are written by Gertrude Robbins and both explore sexual double standards in Edwardian England. In Makeshifts, two bright unmarried sisters, Caroline and Dorothy, know they must marry in order to survive but are reluctant to give up their independence. Realities catches up with Caroline two years later. Robins may not be much remembered today, but she was acclaimed as a female GB Shaw in her era. The third play—HM Harwood’s Honour Thy Father—focuses on an upper-class family ruined by the father’s gambling and who are kept afloat by their eldest daughter. But it’s all about to come tumbling down.
A triple bill of Makeshifts and Realities by Gertrude Robins, and Honour Thy Father by H. M. Harwood. Makeshifts by Gertrude Robins A London suburb, 1908. Two unmarried sisters, Caroline and Dorothy, face uncertain futures unless they can find husbands. They have suitors, but are these vulgar, manipulative, dull men really what they want? How far must they compromise in order to survive? Or are they better off throwing aside convention and striving for independent lives? Realities by Gertrude Robins It’s two years later in the same setting. We catch up with Caroline as she reviews the choices she has made. But, when a figure from the past reappears, she starts to doubt the decision she made… Makeshifts and Realities are a moving and unexpectedly humorous look at the sexual double-standards and the pressures imposed on women in the early twentieth century. First performed by Annie Horniman’s Gaiety Theatre, Manchester, Makeshifts and Realities saw female playwright Gertrude Robins acclaimed as an important new talent, ranking alongside her contemporaries George Bernard Shaw, John Galsworthy, Cecily Hamilton and Stanley Houghton. Honour Thy Father by H. M. Harwood 1912. An upper-class English family, ruined by the father’s gambling habit, have fled to Bruges where they live in exile in straitened circumstances. They anxiously await a visit from their eldest daughter, Claire, an independent woman whose career provides them with their only income. Family relations are already strained and resentful, but a chance meeting with a visitor with an inclination for blackmail plunges them into chaos and recrimination – with devastating results… Honour Thy Father was one of the most controversial plays of the day, unflinching in its exposure of male hypocrisy and of women driven to desperate measures to survive. Refused a license for public performance until 1934, it was first performed privately by the Pioneer Players in 1912, directed by Edith Craig, the daughter of leading actor and previous resident of Finborough Road, Ellen Terry. Content Warning: This production contains sexual references and sensitive subject matter.