Cross Your Heart

Written by Jacquie Penrose

Thurs 3rd March - Sat 5th March & Tues 8th March - Sat 12th March 1983

Directed by Jacquie Penrose

A closely-observed comedy written by Bench-member, Jacquie Penrose. The system which teaches girls about the reproductive organs of rabbits, but not how to change a fuse, comes under stern attack using sharp satire, which is aimed heavily at the national ancient conspiracy to make women dependent on men.

AuthorJacquie Penrose

Jacquie Penrose (b 1950)

Jacquie Penrose is a writer and playwright and (with Bench Theatre) an amateur actor and director. She started writing in the 1980s and to date has written 14 plays, plus some novels and shorter works. At least 7 of her plays have been performed by Bench Theatre: 'Cross Your Heart', 'A Perfect Gentle Knight', 'Time and Tide' (trilogy), 'Renaissance', 'And God Created Michelangelo', 'Dreams of a Hero', 'The Party Guest'. She has also had a number of pieces performed as rehearsed readings by professional (Equity) actors in London, and she wrote and devised 'All About Us' a community play commissioned by Havant Borough Council (about the borough and its inhabitants) in 1990.

Jacquie has been awarded a substantial Arts Council Bursary for her writing, and in 2010, was awarded Best Director, and Best Original Play at the Totton round of the All-England Theatre Festival for 'The Party Guest'. Among several acting roles, she played Olga in Chekhov's 'Three Sisters' for which she received an excellent review however, she usually prefers to be more involved backstage. Since she joined Bench Theatre in 1976 she has directed countless productions, the first of which was 'Private Lives' in 1978. She remembers most fondly her work with the lighting design for the production of Ibsen's 'Ghosts' (a play she also directed) in 1991. Jacquie also spent several years as Editor of the Bench newsletter, 'Bench Press'; at least 5 years working on the Bench Executive Committee and 3 years as Committee Chair. She currently lives in Havant with her husband David.

PlayCross Your Heart

'Cross Your Heart' was the first full length play written by Jacquie Penrose and charts the scholastic careers of five girls. It opens with their reunion in adulthood, some married, some with successful careers and shows their first days at school, climax of their education, prize-giving etc. All the intervening episodes are introduced and commented upon by a narrator who resembles the honey-toned comperes of fashion shows.

The play was largely the product of personal experience, and a response to the 'white-hot' feminism of the 1980s. Looking back on her own all-girls education she found it "outrageous, destructive and down-right ridiculous. Satire was the only answer", and she enjoyed the chance to create interesting performance roles for women. As a play, 'Cross Your Heart' proved very popular with Havant audiences ("we must have hit a nerve") as it had the highest Bench box-office sales that year. An interesting feature of audience feedback was the number of people (mainly women) who said it was just like that for them too - and it didn't matter what kind of school they had been to.

There were a couple of interesting ironies found, following the performance of the play. Jacquie included literally a 'token male' ("to get a few cheap laughs"), and was surprised and pleased to see that he got more than his fair share of those! And of the three central girls, only one (Gina Cameron, 16) was actually of school age. The other two were much older, in their 20s and 30s. A number of audience members commented that Gina wasn't young enough to be playing a schoolgirl. Jacquie commented after these revalations..."Oh well. You win some..."

The Bench Production

Cross Your Heart poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


NarratorPenny Cameron
ImogenJo German
ClaireLezley Picton
SandraSylvia Brierley
JaneIngrid Corrigan
CharlotteGina Cameron
Miss ClarenceRuth Prior
Miss WilkinsonJanet Simpson
Miss ThompsonRobbie Cattermole
Dancing TeacherKaye Jones
MaryJude Salmon
Mum and Biology TeacherNicola Scadding
Token MaleDavid Urquhart
PupilDebbie Powell
PupilMandy Cottle
PupilKathryn Kelly
PupilJude Salmon
PupilStella Benson
PupilAmanda Payne
DancerJane Hart
DancerGina Cameron
DancerDavid Urquhart
DancerDebbie Powell
DancerLaura Stone


Director Jacquie Penrose
Stage Manager Chris Hall
Lighting Peter Holding
Sound Tim Kimber
Costumes David Dipnall
Laura Stone
Set David Penrose
John Kershaw
Poster Sadie Tierney

Director's Notes

In the beginning there was education - for boys, of course - in Whose Image, several hundred years later, the Girls' School was created. In these establishments girls find discipline, high achievement and uniformity (sexuality, of course, being strictly Against the Rules). Here they strive towards their goal; to be, if they are very lucky, as good as boys, or even (impossible aspiration!) a little better.

But lo! out in the world our girls find Page Three, pink Camay, and Pronuptia perfection in soft focus. They meet the challenges of today's life: Will my washing pass the Window Test? Is he a Flora man? Are my hands as soft as the dishes? Do my measurements confirm to this year's fashions? Stern challenges, these, for the intellectual mind. And our girls are faced with even sterner choice: egghead housewife? Dainty executive? Unlikely; take exams or take the Window Test, but don't try to do both. Femininity and excellence, remember, are still thought of to be a contradiction in terms.

It isn't easy writing exclusively about women: not least, if you hope to find an audience because despite the fairly obvious fact that half the population are women, people still regard anything that concerns them as a minority interest, to be relegated to the fringes of Channel Four along with ethnic groups, homosexuals and American Football. Perhaps familiarity with the subject will one day lessen the freakishness of it. St Paul ordered women to be silent in the churches and to stay home and learn from their husbands: perhaps one day people will learn to stop ordering other people about and we can all stand still and listen to each other.

Jacquie Penrose

Production Photographs