Tuesday, 19 June 2018

No Petticoats Here - The Library Theatre, Oldham.

No Petticoats Here is a unique and inspiring evening of original folk songs written and performed by Louise Jordan. However, there is a lot more to it than her simply standing (or sitting) in front of her audience, guitar in hand, and reeling out one song after another.

This is a far more theatrical experience than that, and the stage is laid out with a pair of easels with photographs placed on them and Jordan enters wearing a white blouse, military britches, boots and an army cap. A costume not unlike those worn by some of the people in this evening's 'concert'.

After years of research and a huge personal interest in her subject matter, Jordan has created an evening about just some of the extraordinary women who contributed to the First World War effort in ways quite unexpected. Using original photographs of the women who inspired, as well as transcripts from their writings, we were able to listen to and appreciate more fully what these ladies did and the choices and sacrifices they made.

We heard of, amongst others, Matron Ada Yorke who was working alongside Florence Nightingale in Sudan, and was then head-hunted to become the matron of Hampshire Red Cross Hospital for the duration of the war due to her skill and knowledge; an orphan who aspired to be a journalist and war correspondent called Dorothy Lawrence who dressed as a man and went on the front line living only to spend her final years penniless in a state mental hospital; we heard of Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm, a pair of ladies who became front-line ambulance drivers for The Flying Ambulance Corps, and after their shelter was gassed were forced to return home; and we learnt of the French lady Louise De Bettignies who set up an intelligence network of 16 people in France saving many thouands of allied lives, eventually to be caught and imprisoned by the Germans, sadly dying in prison only a short time before liberation.

We also heard of the hundreds and thousands of women who took up men's jobs in the factories and despite the dangers to their health and well-being, were steadfast in their knowledge that what they were doing was absolutely necessary in order to help and provide for those on the fighting lines. There was also a piece about The Dick, Kerr's Ladies and women's football; interestingly the money raised by these teams was being used to help the war.

In short, using period photographs of these women, along with their own testimonies (heard narrated by actresses and pre-recorded), made this a hugely informative and interesting evening, as Jordan switched from guitar to keyboard and even to snare drum to accompany her own songs; and with a sweet and easy-to-listen to soprano voice and a very pleasant and approachable manner, she made us all feel very welcome and at ease.

Part lecture, part theatrical event, part folk concert, this was an enjoyable introduction to and a different angle on the human element of a war which we are currently commemorating the centenary of.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 18/6/18

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