Sexism, classism, oppression and repression are at the forefront of a new historical play on at Langham Court Theatre delving into the world of 19th century slavery in England
Female Transport, a historical drama originally written by Steve Gooch in the ’80s, follows six women convicted of petty crimes in 19th century London as they are transported to a life of hard labour in Britain’s overseas penal colony, in what is now known as Australia. These women must overcome their personal prejudices and band together to survive both the journey and fate that awaits them.
The play focuses on the women and everything they must undergo from the all-male crew, who also go through their own journey of exploration.
“These are stories that need to be told, specifically because . . . they were the founding women of the country of Australia, essentially because it was basically built on slaves and prisoners who were sent over,” said director Montgomery Bjornson, adding the play has mostly been performed in the university circuit. “The personalities and the stories of the women themselves are very real.”
Deirdre Tipping plays Madge, the oldest of the women in the group who is also gay, in her first play at Langham.
“I really felt this connection from this person who must have been so very lonely, keeping up a tough exterior,” she said. “She’s been around the block and she has her own moral code. She doesn’t mind stealing money, but won’t let someone who can’t help themselves be taken advantage of.”
The play does involve profanity and scenes of violence, such as broom fights, choking, brawling and a whipping.
According to Bjornson, the violence helps shed light on the themes of the play: solidarity and survival.
“It’s witnessing those horrible acts until there’s a big breaking point when they (the women) all stand up together and say ‘that’s it, no one is coming between us anymore’,” Bjornson said.
“It’s brutal and beautiful at the same time and we hope audiences walk away feeling like they endured this journey with them.”
Female Transport runs until March 19 at Langham Court Theatre (805 Langham Crt.) Due to extreme coarse language, violence and mature themes, the play is suitable for ages 15 and up. Tickets can be purchased online at langhamtheatre.ca or by calling 250-384-2142.