Her Naked Skin, Salisbury Playhouse

REFLECTING on what we see in the news, feminist issues are clearly at the forefront of our minds.

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen controversy over Kavanaugh and a viral Tweet thread posing the question, what would women do if all men had a 9pm curfew. As a women, it wasn’t surprising to me to find the most common response was to simply go for a walk or run- a sobering thought of the progress yet to come.

Her Naked Skin reminds us of where we have come from.

Set during one of the key moments in the feminist timeline, The Suffragette Movement, the plot follows on from the moment when Emily Davison throws herself in front of the King’s horse during the 1913 Epsom Derby.

In a play about the Suffragettes you would of course expect playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz to offer up a visualisation of Edwardian Women’s struggle to gain the vote, with focus on the societal rejection those holding the ‘votes for women’ placards faced.

This was encapsulated in scenes at Holloway Prison, recounting the various ways female political prisoners were harassed, humiliated and force-fed.

At Holloway, the story takes an unexpected turn as a lesbian subplot between upper-class Celia Cain (Abigail Cruttenden) and seamstress Eve Douglas (Lorna Fitzgerald) comes to the fore, after lustful looks are exchanged over potato peeling.

Breaking windows in Regents Street and shooting practice in Epping Forest become back bench to lesbian sexuality at a time of great sexual repression, and to an extent, the issue of the class divide in 1913 Britain.

Forbidden touches and risqué moments are exchanged between the two, while Celia’s husband William (Robert Hands), is eaten up by his wife’s militant involvement.

In the days of the #MeToo movement, to be reminded of the strength of those who came before is a beacon of hope to a new generation of fighters.

By Rebecca Rayner