Just Who Was Eglantyne Jebb?

Ms. Chamberlain Presents

Eglantyne

The Walker Theatre

11/June/2015

 

If you weren’t at the theatre tonight here’s a fact you might not know about Shropshire. One of the most influential females of the Twentieth century was born and grew up here in our county.

Eglantyne Jebb, the philanthropist and founder of the charity, Save The Children Fund,  was born and grew up in Ellesmere. Admittedly, like Charles Darwin the county didn’t hold her long enough to immortalise her as totally our own, as she seemed to have settled down south, but what a fantastic fact that our beautiful county has played a part in saving tens of thousands of lives throughout our war torn world.

Eglantyne, the show, was a one woman show starring Anne Chamberlain. Interestingly sponsored by The Performing Arts Foundation Of New Zealand, the show was a look into the life and works of our little known celebrity.

 As a Salopian I was proud to think the story of a woman from Ellesmere should have interested people on the other side of the world. But when you hear the story it should be no surprise that this amazing woman is to be feted throughout the globe.

One Woman/Man shows are the most difficult of the theatrical disciplines. They have to be informative naturally, they need to show the depth and shades that are easier achieved with a multicast performance. They need a balance between light and heavy and they need to be accessible and brilliant.

A tough challenge and this show met nearly all criteria but occasionally tended to drag just a little.

I don’t know what the overall word count of the seventy five minutes performance was but the charming Ms. Chamberlain didn’t miss or fluff a single one. An incredible feat of memory and to pass it off in such a relaxed and conversationalist manner was very, very clever.

One could be forgiven for thinking perhaps the writer could have put the pen down slightly earlier the show was nevertheless informative and important. If not just a little long.

Relying solely on the text the stage was bare, with the exception of a piano stool a table and a hat stand. A highly portable performance indeed. It is , after all actors that act and everything else can be a distraction, however in the more arid parts of the text one might have a welcomed a little distraction.

That said. This is a story that needs telling. It also poses the interesting question of class and the more uncomfortable question of total warfare. The great German  Clausewitz suggested in his book, Von Krieg,  the only way to win a war is by total destruction of the enemy. Practices as seen copied by Napoleon and Hitler in different theatres.. The phenomenon is called total warfare.

 It's unsavoury to debate, but our boys our men and our relations were all dying in a war they didn’t start and the ruling classes, that did start it, were shaking collection tins under the noses of the public, a starving public decimated by war,  asking them to give cash  to perpetuate the life expectancy of the enemy by feeding the enemies children may have been a step too far for many.

It is a desparate conundrum and all us with the luxury of time passed since that war know there is never justification for killing children, but at the time if my brother had been killed in the trenches, I might have found myself offering a few choice words to anyone that might do anything in any way to help the enemy; and in total war that means anything at all.

That is what makes this story even more incredible with the whole of the world ripping itself apart like hounds round a fox, one calm unassuming lady from Shropshire poked her head over the parapet and demanded we save the children.

I only hope that somebody with the same tenacity as Eglantyne comes by one day and tells the war makers that it’s time they stopped. Somehow sadly, one could be forgiven for doubting that happening any time soon.

This is a three star review

Owen Lewis

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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