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.
'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..."
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Miss Clarence||Ruth Prior|
|Miss Wilkinson||Janet Simpson|
|Miss Thompson||Robbie Cattermole|
|Dancing Teacher||Kaye Jones|
|Mum and Biology Teacher||Nicola Scadding|
|Token Male||David Urquhart|
|Stage Manager||Chris Hall|
|Set||David Penrose |
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.