Updated: Sep 28, 2019
“Liberty” is a new play based on this life of Kath Duncan, an activist in the 1930’s who is fighting for civil liberties and ends up in a landmark court case that enshrines free speech into law.
As the name suggests, the play is about Liberty. The focus is on the national struggle but within this the playwright demonstrates the personal impact the situation had on individuals (in particular the LGBT community with the play being produced for LGBTQ history month) and therefore demonstrates why this fight was so important.
Historical plays can be tricky. You need to make them entertaining while maintaining a certain amount of accuracy and being faithful to the overall story and in this play of local and national history Ray Barron-Woolford has managed to do both things. I say national history because the efforts of the campaigners portrayed had consequences for the entire country. But it’s local as it’s roots are in the community where it is playing.
The play is shown at a Baptish Church in Deptford which is where the main protagonist held her meetings and on arrival you are greeted with a sign directing you to “Kath Duncan Meeting” so you know already they are going for authenticity.
The first act focuses on the meetings and protests but also has some poignant personal moments in particular between two gay men who can’t show their love as they’d both be sentenced to 12 years hard labour (less than 100 years ago). The second act moves onto the national stage showing the parliamentary discussion on Kath Duncan’s arrest (using transcripts from the time) and is interspersed with personal stories which humanizes the proceedings that could have seemed abstract. Here it would have been good to have a couple more personal stories as they allow the audience to get a real insight into the human consequences of what is happening.
While there was some stunted dialogue in places overall it’s a good script with excellent pacing, particularly impressive as it’s the playwright’s first play. Being in a chapel the space is unusual and the director Karen Douglas has made full use of the opportunities this presents and immerses the audience into the action.
There is some clever casting with Kath’s husband being played by a woman, a subtle nod to the fact that she would have wanted to be married to a woman. Overall the cast were impressive with Emily Carding as Kath Duncan being a strong lead. Special mention needs to go to Ana Luiza Ulsig who took on multiple roles and proved herself to be a terrific character actor with perfect comic timing and was a scene stealer throughout.
This is a treasure of a local production. It’s only on until the end of February and I’d highly recommend gong to see this portrayal of an important and consequential but often forgotten part of history. I give this production a 4 star Laura Michelle-Kelly rating.
For tickets go to: https://www.seetickets.com/tour/liberty