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Sunday, 23 September 2018

Sylvia - The Old Vic Review

I am a huge fan of discovering new musicals. I spend more time than I should admit reading broadway news and listening to Encore Radio on repeat. So when I heard that ZooNation had created a musical on the story of Sylvia Pankhurst I thought my dreams had come true. I mean musicals, feminism and a brand new show. What more could I ask for? 

When I was offered tickets to go and see it with one of my Young Women's Trust friends, we couldn't wait to see what the hype was about this brand new musical. It ticked all our boxes and after hearing so much about Sylvia I needed to see it for myself. 


Sylvia is a hip hop musical based on the life of Sylvia Pankhurst within the suffragette movement. Watch as Sylvia and her family front and fight adversity to win women the right to vote. With a predominantly black cast and a funk and hip hop soundtrack you would be easy to draw comparisons with Hamilton, but in my opinion is stands completely on it's own and is a potential hit show in it's own right.

It's worth noting that Sylvia hasn't had an easy ride. With cast illness, recasting and technical problems, it's still in it's early stages. So much so that what we went to see what dubbed a "work in progress", a raw version of the show that still needed cutting down and refining. At three hours including the interval, they admit that it's a long show and it does need some work. That's not to say it was rough and ready around the edges, if anything it was so much better than I ever expected.

Most of us are familiar with the life of Emmeline Pankhurst and how she fronted the suffragette movement. And rather than retelling a story that has been told time and time again, Kate Prince the writer and director decided to opt for a story around her daughter Sylvia. She was dubbed the black sheep of the family for being a pacifist, socialist and not conforming to the violence and anarchy that her mother and sister asked of her. But her story is full of want and hope for the future and takes in everything from her affair with founder of the Labour Party Kier Hardie, to setting up her own East End branch of Suffragettes amongst the deep division of the Suffragette movement. Everything is covered and it's a fascinating and emotional rollercoaster of a story that appeals to everyone from theatre lovers to feminists and even schools.

I can honestly say that I sat in my seat transfixed at what I was watching. The perfect blend of serious drama, high energy, impactful songs and the slight humour to take the edge of the seriousness of the subject matter. It had everything and more that I would ever want in a Suffragette based musical. With Beverly Knight literally blowing me away with her depiction of Emmeline, she hit the highs, she took those riffs as she owned the stage. It was something that you won't every be forgetting.

The cast really brought the show together. With belting vocals, stunning choreography and costumes that transformed you back in time. I was sat in awe at the sheer talent that was on the stage. Especially when that were performing in such a long musical, to have that much energy and passion is a credit to the performers. Each of the women (and men) on stage did a fantastic depiction of the characters and I loved the wonderful diversity on stage.

With lyrics such as "Keep your eyes on the finish line, we can do this one step at a time, and I will see you on the other side, I will see you when we change their minds" it feels like the movement is still going strong. I know in all the charity work I do, that these lyrics feel like they could have been sung about the work we do today. Whilst 100 years may have passed since some women won the right to vote, I hope it won't take 100 more years to see the finish line of gender equality. Thank god for shows like Sylvia, and organisations such as the Young Women's Trust and the Fawcett Society that are challenging and pushing for equality.

Sylvia's run might have ended and been short lived, but I can see potential and longevity in the works. The cast deserve all the praise that's been floating around on social media, as it was a fantastic show.Yes the show needs some serious work before it returns to the stage. But with a fantastic book and music, you can see that it's going to be the success that it deserves to be. And I can't wait to see how it turns out.



*Note: I was gifted tickets to the show but was not expected to write a review, all opinions are my own.
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