Hidden Stories – your reviews!

11th August 2023

We finished our ‘Hidden Stories’ tour just under a month ago and I am already missing being on the stage. It’s lovely to be able to reminisce through the photos and videos that we took along the way, but incredible to read the positive and supportive reviews we received from our audience members.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to put a review together and/or talk to us following a performance. It is very important for us to get feedback, so we know that we are hitting the mark with our plays and our audiences.

I think we can safely say that those of you who came to see our new plays found them intriguing and thought-provoking. This was exactly our aim. We wanted to bring to your attention two heart-breaking true cases that resulted in extreme miscarriages of justice, and also ask if things have really changed in the last 100 years?

We have collated all our reviews and have shared them below. If you would like to leave us a review, please do contact us.  

•  Shahnaz (Shiny) Hussain, MK Citizen.

•  Jenny Beake, Lynn News (Westacre Theatre, Kings Lynn).

•  Ashley Hayward, Elementary Whats-On (Bridge House Theatre, Warwick).

Harriet Mardlin – Lifebox Theatre (BedFringe)

“Hidden Stories, produced by The Play’s The Thing Theatre Company, had for me an instant draw in its title. Theatre is such a great medium for giving a voice to someone hitherto silenced or unknown, and this production did not disappoint in its ability to engage us in the narratives of two women caught up in a biased and unjust legal system. In Now You See Me, written and performed by Carly Halse, we hear from Ruth Ellis about the events leading to her sentence to be hanged and are given a window into her thoughts and reactions as she waits in her cell.  Halse’s writing conveys a clear-eyed, direct woman with moments of wry humour and she plays her with a depth of understanding no doubt informed by having also written the piece. There’s an endearing self-awareness about Ruth: at one point, she comments that she knows she can be ‘a bit abrasive’. As an audience, we’re drawn into her experience and feel the injustice of it; we’re left with the haunting line that, in prison, there’s ‘too much time to think’.

Darlint Peidi follows, and there is a beautiful contrast between the two women we’re hearing from. Edith Thompson, sensitively played by Lisa Stenhouse, shows us a balance between softness and the strength of her passion for a lover who awakened desire in her in a way her husband had never done. Caroline Mann’s Mysterious Visitor allows us to see whether there’s any real difference between the 1920s and 1960s in the way Edith would have been judged. We see once more how searingly unfair the sentencing is and how heavily weighted the law has been in favour of men in both these cases. Edith’s letters, spoken at points throughout, are especially compelling and poignant.

Hidden Stories is an important and revelatory piece of work, well-crafted by the writers and assuredly performed on a sparse and simple set. Nothing more is needed: the strength of narrative keeps us watching.”

Audience reviews

“Very enjoyable. They were incredibly interesting and nice to have a slant and a view on things. It was very intriguing. Come and see these plays. It makes you think.”Westacre Theatre audience member. 

“Come and see these plays. Thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking. Highly recommended."Westacre Theatre audience member.

“I thought the play was excellent. I thought I knew the story of Ruth Ellis; it has been fleshed out a lot more. It’s frightening how there are still so many instances with the same things happening. Women are still being vilified for doing the same as a man, who is treated like a hero. It’s quite shocking that we think we have moved so far, we have moved forward but not far enough yet. We must carry on. Your play needs to be put in schools. It needs to teach the children what coercive control is so they recognise it. If that is all they have seen in their childhood, that is what they think is normal. So, they don’t realise there are other options. It’s got to get into schools. Thank you.”Westacre Theatre audience member.

“When it comes to drama there is more to it than just standing on stage talking about a story behind theatre, I think it comes down to what the meaning is behind it as well. I think from what we’ve watched today it was all about women, feminism, the way society has changed – or how it hasn’t – and I think coming to productions like this is very important as it is so eye-opening. It needs to go to colleges, universities, secondary schools. I think when I was at university and we had productions like this come in, then it would have sparked a bigger debate in terms of society, the way the press talk about women. Once upon a time Marilyn Monroe was the picture of sexiness. She was a size 12-14. Nowadays, if you are a 12-14 you are classed as overweight. Having theatre out there like this, that discusses what it’s like to be a woman in all the ages is so important. When she spoke about how it’s not changed, you think, it hasn’t really and what are we doing to change that up a little bit. It was good. I loved it.”Westacre Theatre audience member.

“It was fantastic. I felt that you were Ruth Ellis. It wasn’t what I expected, and it was a very pleasant surprise.”Westacre Theatre audience member.

“Very intriguing indeed. It was actually lovely to see empowerment for women but told in a really tragic setting. It was quite interesting how it was staged, and I never knew the stories, so I have learnt something new today.” – Hanger Farm Arts Centre audience member

“It really puts things into perspective. I got to learn a bit more about history and hidden stories that I wouldn’t have got to know about.”Hanger Farm Arts Centre audience member 

“I’d give this five-stars. It is excellent. It is thought-provoking, interesting, humours and really well acted.”Hanger Farm Arts Centre audience member

“I really enjoyed these two one act plays. The characters became very real, and I believed I was actually watching Ruth Ellis and Edith Thompson. I thought it might be all “doom and gloom” so I was pleasantly surprised that there were some bits of humour!” – The Place, Bedford- audience member

“What an absorbing and fascinating evening’s theatre by The Play’s The Thing Theatre Company. Plays written about women by women, shining a light on injustices that are sadly still too relevant.” – The Place, Bedford- audience member

“Fantastic evening- great performances.” – The Place, Bedford- audience member

“Congratulations on a finely constructed play — they’re always tricky to make work especially when you’ve got specific themes and facts you want to get across, but you’ve achieved this well, creating a unique and tightly written piece about an injustice that mustn’t be forgotten. It’s also very original in terms of the ‘who you could have been’ discussion. Carly’s play is equally well finely tuned (and today, too late of course, I’ve woken with a question: Although Ruth was concerned about the future of her children, she refused to go for a Reprieve. Why was this, I wonder? Was it partly due to her feeling she deserved to die for what she had done? (Especially given England was a much more Christian biased country than today) I didn’t know she intended to save a bullet for herself at the scene. This conflict actually seems to be one of the core elements of the play so can be stressed at will. So, do keep the thought-provoking work coming.” – Stantonbury audience member.

“Congratulations on a finely constructed play “Darlint Peidi” - they’re always tricky to make work especially when you’ve got specific themes and facts you want to get across, but you’ve achieved this well, creating a unique and tightly written piece about an injustice that mustn’t be forgotten. It’s also very original in terms of the ‘who you could have been’ discussion.” – Stantonbury Audience Member

“I thought it was brilliant in every way. Lovely bustle in the venue. The script, the topic, the simple backdrop and the performing artist so professional - everything. The audience (approx. 40) were held spell-bound from start to finish.” – BedFringe audience member.

“I just had the good fortune to be on the door of the first performance, giving me the opportunity to take most of it in. I would highly recommend it, as a show that is entertaining, emotive and thought-provoking. Well written and flawless acting too.” – Brighton Fringe audience member.  

“The stories of Ruth Ellis and Edith Thompson were sensitively portrayed in these highly moving and thought-provoking dramas. The acting was sublime, and the dramas left one wondering whether contemporary society treats women any more fairly than it did to these two heroines in the gallows.” – Applecart Arts Centre, London-audience member

“These plays are phenomenal. Thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking.” – Applecart Arts Centre, London-audience member

“I saw these plays in London. They are a “must see”.  Brilliantly written and superbly acted.” – Applecart Arts Centre, London-audience member

Thank you again for all your support with Hidden Stories. We are now working on some new and exciting projects, which we will tell you more about in the new year.

Over the next couple of months we will be focusing on our interactive training workshops with local schools, colleges and businesses. If you like to find out more, please get in touch.

We will also have our fingers crossed at The SME MK and Buckinghamshire Business Awards dinner on 20th September, where we have been shortlisted in the Positive Impact Award category. Wish us luck!