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Constance Smedley

The Amazing and Preposterous Constance Smedley The Everyman, Cheltenham

Monday 15th March 2010 by Derek Briggs

Some surprising things come out of skips. Frank Hatt got the idea for a new play from one, via old discarded letters and photographs.

And as his title The Amazing and Preposterous Constance Smedley suggests, the central character he stumbled across was quite a character.

Smedley (1876–1941) was a prolific playwright, novelist and journalist who founded Lyceum Clubs across Europe, giving cultural women a facility previously limited to men.

She married the homosexual artist Maxwell Armfield, opposed WWI and, whilst resident in Minchinhampton, founded the Cotswold Players.

Impossibly pushy, she achieved the impossible despite being paralysed from the waist down.

The play embraces solid old values as lines heavy with information tell the story. But drama needs conflict and this is attempted via sibling rivalries, Constance’s temperament and family disagreements.

A lively device occasionally turns the cast into Music Hall artists to speed on the narration.

There is much of interest, and nice touches include a comparison between the duties of a wife and a zoo keeper.

Sophie Laughton as Constance had just the right mixture of spoiled child and visionary.

And Sally-Anne Beighton, David Seymour Dan Maxwell and Fiona Ross all contributed living portraits.