Women amid the warriors


Old Joint Stock


ANONYMOUS Is A Woman is a ground breaking theatre company. It make theatre from what inspires it most, in the hope of informing audiences and commenting on social change. It is a theatre company for women, allowing audiences to see a talent for storytelling with women being at the heart of the topic.

In Anonymous Is A Woman’s F.A.N.Y, we were exposed to their collaborative and highly researched work, influenced by WWI nurses who in the mist of the battlefield, drove wounded soldiers to medical safety.

F.A.N.Y serves its connotations of feminism from the start and gives way to the imagination for what it stands for. With a thoroughly researched production, the audience find that the First Aid Nurse’s Yeomanry was in fact a voluntary military department, where women were intricately trained to transport the wounded from the battlefront to hospital. As we are introduced to each character, we are told what it means to them.

The fact that F.A.N.Y.s received negative censures from the masses shows that it is a topic for great scope and comment. It was deemed wrong that women were in close proximity to the men of the military. Anonymous Is A Woman went deeper into this concept. Whilst commenting on the power of women at the time, the company created truthful and engaging stories for every character that was introduced to us, whilst still urging us to see ‘the bigger picture’ all the way through.

The space is very basic and alludes to a ‘fringe’ setting. My companion and I made up half the audience, making it an extremely intimate experience. We were exposed to four chairs set in a square formation and the room was silent as we waited for the show to begin. It was easy to say that most of the audience, including myself did not know what to expect at first.

These were the set ffanyor the entirety of the production. Throughout the show, they became ambulances, board rooms, a bathing pool amongst many other settings. This imaginative form allowed the audience to be transported instantly into their unique and creative world.

To be a F.A.N.Y was a voluntary cause. This meant that most of the girls came from elite backgrounds with money to spend in order to fight for their country. The company are wonderfully clever in that from this story, five individual, well rounded and in-depth characters emerged basing this story as their background. All are united by one individual purpose, but still have agendas of their own.

At the start of the production, we are introduced to Emily, an unlikely young woman from Somerset, as her accent suggests, who wants nothing more than to become a F.A.N.Y after reading pamphlets and letters about their work. Her downfall however, is that poverty makes it seem near impossible to become part of the elite group. Stella Taylor as Emily gives a beautiful approach to the feisty character. It is in this character that we see a wonderful transformation that also highlighted the prevalence of class at the time.

Bips Mawson and Leila Sykes gave spectacular performances as the ladies of the troupe and Henri Merriam as Bruton was a master of the Scottish accent. Merriam’s character added a sense of narration as she took on the hard core role of commandant. It was her doing that transformed the girls from what we see at first into the robust women of war.

Madeline Gould was the star of the show. In a collaborative piece where so much of the work was devised, Gould as upper-class Phyllis was a pleasure to watch. In choral and poetic sequences where all girls worked together, Gould stood out and charmed us with her presence at all times.

The women are talented in every aspect. Their passion for the subject and care for all women gives a magical effect for the whole audience. Their talent for portraying individual characters is of course wonderful to behold but it is their careful precision and devotion to research and writing that made this collaboration stand out. It is clear to see that the company are close, and the comradery was transferred excellently within the characters of their story.

F.A.N.Y is an informative and a powerful story created by Anonymous is a Woman. At a time of political uncertainty today, the story of the F.A.N.Y’s gives a new kind of prevalence to its meaning over a Century ago. The members of Anonymous Is A Woman are not only beautiful theatre makers, but comment on the issues that we face today as a whole.

Elizabeth Halpin


F.A.N.Y. tour:

17th April- Bantock House,Wolverhampton;  18th April- Artrix Studio,Bromsgrove; 21st-25th April Coach House Studio,Malvern- 01684 892277; 28-29 April- The Attic, Stratford; 1st May-Palace Theatre Studio,Redditch; 2nd May- The Hive Studio,Worcester; London Showcase -May 28th - The Actor's Church, Covent Garden  


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