Stephanie Scott reviews RedLadder Theatre Company’s ‘Wrong ‘Un’ at The Lowry
Wrong ‘Un is a one-woman suffragette musical, performed by Ella Harris, depicting the life and struggles of Annie Wilde, a young Lancashire girl. Set at the end of the 19th century through to the nearing end of World War I, this historical play had me gripped before I entered the theatre. As the past year has seen a huge surge in media attention for the current feminist movement, the show has contemporary significance beyond its historical nature; a message of struggle, hope and steely determination in the face of opposition.
Ella Harris carries the entire performance single-handedly, and brings Annie Wilde’s character vividly to life. Her humour and vivacity carried the play through its light-hearted, mocking moments, and yet brought the seriousness of the treatment dealt out to women, who were fighting for their rights, into stunning clarity. The gravity of their mistreatment was physically uncomfortable for the audience, causing many people, including myself, to squirm in their seats. As well as delivering an incredible performance, Ella Harris was personable and connected to the audience – when the lines of the last song slipped her mind, she did not slip out of character, she laughed it off with us, as Annie Wilde, not Ella Harris.
The songs throughout the play were all sung a cappella, without a backing track or any band. Ella occasionally kept time with objects from the small, unchanging set, but aside from this it was solely her voice. The placement and integration of the songs was not always very smooth, and sometimes they seemed slightly out of place, but Ella’s voice carried each time and the messages incorporated into the songs were grasped by everyone in the audience.
Wrong ‘Un was a hugely enjoyable and educational performance and experience. The play was written by ex-Chumbawamba guitarist and writer Boff Whalley, and inspired by the grandmother of a friend, who had in her possession many memorabilia from the era of those suffragettes of the early 20th century. Bringing this, seemingly ancient, period of history to life must have seemed a daunting task, but Whalley, Harris and all those who worked on the performance succeeded. Annie Wilde’s story is one of determination and grit – and perhaps we can all learn something from the young suffragettes who lived a century ago.
4 out of 5