Caedmon take us back to 1896

Last week Caedmon, Mayfield's Theatre Company for students in Years 11-13, performed Blue Stockings by Jessica Swale in the Concert Hall to an invited audience. Set in 1896 the 'blue stockings' were young women who were among the first females allowed to be educated at Girton College Cambridge. Despite the Girton girls studying ferociously and matching their male peers' grade for grade, they are denied degrees.

The cast members of Caedmon demonstrated professionalism, resilience, and creativity. Each one rising to the challenge and coming together to create an entertaining and thought-provoking play. 

Elizabeth, who played the part of Celia Willbond, commented: "Blue Stockings is a play about women fighting for their right to learn in the setting of the previously male dominated Cambridge University. As many of us in Caedmon are beginning to think of our futures post-Mayfield, some of us hoping to study male dominated subjects at university, we found the subject matter particularly pertinent.

The scene which struck me the most during rehearsals is one in which the female protagonist challenges a highly esteemed male academic during one of his lectures. She asks intelligent questions and raises alternative theories, but she is quickly shut down for becoming too ‘emotional’ in her delivery when she is in fact only passionate. The way that passionate intellectual curiosity is treated in the female characters is in sharp contrast to that of the male characters who, a few scenes later, are told that their essays lacked that same passion and are encouraged to become more so. Unfortunately, many women are still subject to this sort of discrimination today.

Though women were eventually granted the right to graduate from Cambridge University in 1948, 50 years after the play is set, producing Blue Stockings also served as a reminder that we are incredibly fortunate to have safe access to a proper education, as this is not the case for many girls across the globe. Although education should be a basic human right, we are among the comparatively few girls who have the privilege of spending an adequate amount of time in a safe learning environment. Though women in England may have the right to graduate, the fight is not yet over which is why the work of activists for women’s education, such as Malala Yousafzai, is so important.

Although the underlying subject matter is serious and extremely relevant, the play itself is also very light-hearted and was so much fun to work on! We hope that anyone who came to watch enjoyed it – we certainly enjoyed being able to put on a proper performance once again!"

Izzy in Year 12 said: "I really enjoyed playing the role of ‘Mr Banks’. The play touches on some of the issues surrounding the feminist ideals of late nineteenth century contemporary women and the struggles that the women faced living in a misogynistic society. This inspired my performance in appreciating the sacrifices that were made which ultimately have allowed us to be in the position we are today of equal access to university education."  

Olivia in Year 11 said: "The production this year was so incredible for many different reasons. Firstly, due to covid I hadn’t met many of the other girls in the cast however, after spending so much time together I've really got to know them and make some good friends in other years. Additionally, the play ‘Blue Stockings’ was so educational and put into perspective how lucky we are to have the education we do today and made me so grateful to the women who we portrayed in the play and fought for us to have that right to education. The play was also such a lovely break from mocks and studies, and I genuinely had the best time during rehearsals, getting closer with friends and putting on a great show."

  • Creative Arts