Chronicle.lu recently got the opportunity to talk with Tony Kingston, the director of the upcoming BGT English-language play "We Happy Few", which is being performed in Salle Robert Krieps at Neumünster Abbey (neimënster) in Luxembourg-Grund from 1 to 4 December 2021.
Following the success of its one-woman show "The Road to Huntsville" earlier this year, the Berliner Grundtheater (BGT) is returning with a larger ensemble piece next month.
Written in 2004 by the actress Imogen Stubbs, "We Happy Few" tells the story of the “Artemis Players”, an all-woman theatre company which challenges the male-dominated world of the 1940s to bring theatre to the furthest-flung parts of Britain. Based on the real but now largely-forgotten Osiris Players, the play is a celebration of both the tireless energy of these determined women and of the joys, frustrations and general madness of a life in theatre.
Discussing what inspired him to choose this specific play, director Tony Kingston emphasised how "We Happy Few" fits BGT's agenda to promote plays written by and for women. Indeed, the aim of the theatre company's recent productions has been to shift the traditional gender imbalance in theatre and to showcase some of the female acting talent that exists in Luxembourg.
Delving deeper into the story itself, Tony explained how "We Happy Few" is based on the true story of a group of women who toured all of England performing theatre in schools and other venues where access to entertainment was limited during the Second World War. Whilst theatres largely remained open, access was often restricted in wartime. Similar to the First World War, women began to replace men in wartime industries at home, although WW2 saw this role gradually extend to the arts, including the traditionally male-dominated theatrical world. Despite this early progress, it was not until 40 to 50 years later that "gender-blind casting became a bit more mainstream", according to Tony.
"We Happy Few" is thus the untold story of women and their contribution during the Second World War. Whilst a few men do feature in the play, they are mainly in the background.
One scene that is sure to stand out is the two-women sword fight - a sight rarely seen on stage, particularly in Luxembourg. Tony explained how the cast, especially Kim Birel and Gina Millington, had worked with a swordplay expert and dedicated a lot of their time over the summer to rehearsing this unique scene.