The Straw Chair

by Sue Glover

19 April - 14 May 2022

“There is a lesson you should learn from your stay on Hirta: the danger of being too troublesome a wife.”

The English premiere

★★★★★ Five Stars, The Upcoming
★★★★★ Five Stars, Time and Leisure
★★★★★ Five Stars, London Pub Theates
★★★★.5 Four and a Half Stars, The Reviews Hub
★★★★ Four Stars, ReviewsGate
★★★★ Four Stars, Everything Theatre
★★★★ Four Stars, Broadway World
★★★★ Four Stars, West End Best Friend
★★★★ Four Stars, London Living Large
★★★★ Four Stars, Close Up Culture
★★★★ Four Stars, ajlovestheatre
★★★★ Four Stars, Morning Star
Standing Ovation Nomination from London Pub Theatres
OffWestEnd Award Nomination for Performance Ensemble
OffWestEnd Award Nomination for Costume Design – Carla Joy Evans

1735. Isabel, barely seventeen, is sent from Edinburgh and the life she has always known, to live with her new husband on Gaelic-speaking St Kilda, an island on the furthest edges of the Outer Hebrides, in the storm-tossed waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Struggling to adapt to island life, Isabel meets Rachel – a wild, seemingly mad woman, shunned by the local inhabitants. Over time, Isabel learns that Rachel is none other than the infamous Lady Grange, kidnapped by her husband following their bitter divorce and long imprisoned on the island. Lady Grange clings with tragic dignity to the two things she has left in the world – a consuming rage and an old straw chair.

Inspired by a true story, The Straw Chair is a modern Scottish classic, exploring liberty, marriage, madness and incarceration, and female empowerment, against the backdrop of the lost way of life of the Western Isles.

First performed in 1988 at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in a co-production between Focus Theatre and the Traverse, and revived on an extensive Scottish tour in 2015, The Straw Chair finally receives its English premiere at the Finborough Theatre.

WHAT IS “SCOTTISH” PLAYWRITING ANYWAY?
On Friday, 13 May 2022 there will be a post-show discussion, free to ticketholders of evening performance, with Louise Stephens, Creative Director of Playwrights Studio Scotland; Jenny Lee, Actor and Founder of Attic Theatre; and Neil McPherson, Playwright and Artistic Director of the Finborough Theatre.

COVID SAFE
As an intimate theatre venue, we are taking every possible precaution to ensure the safety of performers, staff, and audience members during the current pandemic. Audience members will be temperature-checked upon their arrival at the theatre, and masks are mandatory at all times, including during the performance. Our staff will be wearing masks for audience members’ safety as well as their own. In order to ensure that the Finborough Theatre is still accessible for those who are CEV (Clinically Extremely Vulnerable) or who would just prefer it, all Sunday matinee performances are Covid Pass Sundays when we will ask for proof of vaccination as well as mask wearing. We have reduced our audience capacity to 80% and temporarily increased our ticket prices to reflect this. We have been reviewing these protocols every month and will lift them as soon as it is safe to do so. For full information, please visit our Covid-19 policy page.

About The Director Polly Creed

Director Polly Creed is a theatre director, playwright, and filmmaker. Polly is a founder of Power Play, a production company that tells women's stories of injustice on stage and on screen. Power Play's debut site-specific showcase at the Edinburgh Fringe 2018 won a Fringe First for Emma Dennis-Edwards’ play, Funeral Flowers. Polly’s directorial debut, Next Time received an ‘Outstanding Show’ accolade at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Polly is also writer of Humane, shortlisted for the Charlie Hartill Award and published by Aurora Metro Books. It has also been adapted into an audio drama. The play version will have a stage run at The Pleasance in November 2021. Her play, The Empty Chair, was shortlisted for a Sit Up Award and won Best New Writing at LSDF 2018.  In 2016-2020, she ran a successful petition and media campaign, calling for Harvey Weinstein to be stripped of his honorary CBE.

About True Name Productions

True Name Productions was founded by Imy Wyatt Corner and Polly Creed in 2019, making work exploring social injustice, connecting places and people. Previous work includes All Rise’, an immersive co-production with Plan B Earth about climate change at the Tate Modern. and Humane, adapted as an audio drama for Theatre Deli Sheffield, the Arcola Theatre, Omnibus Theatre and Compassion in World Farming, with a stage run at the Pleasance, London in Autumn 2021.

The Press on The Straw Chair

“Miss Havisham meets King Lear…” The Guardian

★★★★ “Richly enjoyable…a play that demands attention for bringing so many unheard and marginalised voices – Gaelic, St Kildan, and intensely female – to the very centre of the stage.” The Scotsman

★★★★ “An exposé of the arrogance and need of control of both class and religion over women in particular at the time that holds timeous echoes for the present day.” Edinburgh Guide

“A vivid portrayal of St Kilda, an evocation of 18th century Edinburgh (with a hint of turbulent Jacobite politics), and added to this 3 strongly drawn female characters. This is a play that will certainly stand the test of time.” Lothian Life

“Glover’s play is notable for its superb structure and balance.” Scottish Stage

“An unassuming little gem of a play…Sue Glover’s script weaves together Lady Grange’s experience with those of three very different characters she encounters there, and captures the loneliness, desperation, and surprising tenderness of an existence on the edge of civilisation and sanity.” Qmunicate Magazine

“One of the most powerful and contemporary plays by Sue Glover…rich with diverse and relevant themes regarding the place of women in society.” The Wee Review

The Straw Chair has authentic power…A play about women, about freedom and about communication” Ian Bell, Glasgow Herald

“Though Sue Glover’s The Straw Chair deals in other times and is set in a wild place, it is very much a play for us today…written with conviction and a deceptive simplicity.” John Fowler, Glasgow Herald

“Very sensitively written.” Allen Wright, The Scotsman

“There is much to admire in the way the dramatist establishes the feeling of being on the edge of the world and yet being part of a more civilised society than that of supposedly sophisticated Edinburgh.” Allen Wright, The Scotsman

“Its strength…lies in its beautiful, lilting use of language and its humour.” Sarah Hemming, The Independent

“A little gem…The dialogue is crisp and telling and has no truck with the whimsy and feyness which so often bedevils Scots writing about the past.” Robert Dawson Scott, The Times

The Press on director Polly Creed

“Important and hard-hitting theatre” Fringe Guru on Next Time

“Polly Creed’s direction shines....truly magical” ERA Journal on As You Like It

“Joyful and defiant” Sally Stott, The Scotsman on Next Time/Power Play Showcase

“Compelling and serious drama…an outstanding show” Fringe Review on Next Time

The Press On The Straw Chair

★★★★★ Five Stars, The Upcoming
★★★★★ Five Stars, Time and Leisure
★★★★★ Five Stars, London Pub Theates
★★★★.5 Four and a Half Stars, The Reviews Hub
★★★★ Four Stars, ReviewsGate
★★★★ Four Stars, Everything Theatre
★★★★ Four Stars, Broadway World
★★★★ Four Stars, West End Best Friend
★★★★ Four Stars, London Living Large
★★★★ Four Stars, Close Up Culture
★★★★ Four Stars, ajlovestheatre
★★★★ Four Stars, Morning Star
Standing Ovation Award Nomination from London Pub Theatres
OffWestEnd Award Nomination for Performance Ensemble
OffWestEnd Award Nomination for Costume Design – Carla Joy Evans

“Sue Glover's play is a typical find for this most interesting of theatres, giving it an English premiere 34 years on from its first staging in Edinburgh. If it needed it - and it doesn't - lockdown has added another layer of universality to a tale timeless in its themes and dramas.” Gary Naylor, Broadway World

“A beautifully crafted piece of work telling a fascinating story about power play and self-value. It is enriched by impassioned performance and beautiful music.” Mary Pollard, Everything Theatre

“An engrossing drama.” Jane Darcy, The Reviews Hub

“On the day that the National Theatre announced a UK tour for its production that doesn’t visit Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, it seems fitting that Scottish theatre plants a robust standard here in England, in this hauntingly evocative production at the Finborough Theatre.” Mary Pollard, Everything Theatre

“Lovely to see the tiny Finborough back in business.” Lyn Gardner, Stage Door

“A cracking production at the Finborough, intense, moving and thought-provoking.” David Weir, London Pub Theatres

"Soul-enhancing.” David Weir, London Pub Theatres

“Amazingly this is the English premiere of a seminal Scottish play and there is a good chance that this will become the latest in a long line of Finborough rediscoveries of overlooked plays which make us consider them afresh.” Lyn Gardner, Stage Door

“A gem of a play, tender and beautiful and wild by turns.” Jenny Booth, Time and Leisure

“There's much to chew on in this play, based on the true story of a woman's banishment. There's isolation and loneliness, there's the strange grip exerted by a distant authority through history and culture.” Gary Naylor, Broadway World

“Gripping theatre…in the intimacy of the Finborough…Wonderfully funny.” Jane Darcy, The Reviews Hub

“A glorious evening’s entertainment.” David Weir, London Pub Theatres

“Beautifully embodying remote Gaelic Scotland, this is a passionate tale that recognises the perpetual repression of ‘difficult’ women across centuries, and one woman’s uncrushable determination to be recognised.” Mary Pollard, Everything Theatre

“An evocative, thought-provoking and above all, entertaining drama.” Jane Darcy, The Reviews Hub

“There is humanity and tragedy in the piece.” Jonathan Evans, Spy In The Stalls

“Compelling examination of the real historical case of a woman locked away for purported hysteria because she was an inconvenience to her husband.” Kevin Lloyd, Stage Door

“With beautiful, traditional Gaelic music (including fiddle arrangements), Glover’s pitch-perfect writing – a lot of which is surprisingly very funny, given the story – and Polly Creed’s direction, The Straw Chair speaks volumes about the mistreatment and ostracism of unconventional women and still rings true after 300 years.” Selina Begum, The Upcoming

“An entertaining, worthy and thought provoking story which succeeds in its voyage of bringing a remote 18th century island to Earls Court.” Viv Williams, West End Best Friend

“As so often before the Finborough has brought previously undiscovered treasures to the London stage with this account of the fate of Lady Grange.” William Russell, ReviewsGate

“A play that demands attention.” Jonathan Evans, Spy In The Stalls

“Well defined three-dimensional female characters, humorous scenes and poignant performances.” Viv Williams, West End Best Friend

“I love the way the tiny Finborough can bring this isolated island to life.” Lizzie Loveridge, Theatre Vibe

“An intriguing piece of historical drama set in the wilds of Scotland which touches on the plight of political prisoners and the rights of women.” Louise Penn, LouReviews

“Welcome back to the Finborough and its unique gift at finding stories we can relate to and staging them so well.” Lizzie Loveridge, Theatre Vibe

“A sensitive drama that succeeds in engrossing a modern British audience with the lives and difficulties of mid 18th century women.” Viv Williams, West End Best Friend

“Set in the mid-eighteenth century on Hirta, a tiny island of the St Kilda archipelago, it is based on a startling true story: the abduction of Rachel, Lady Grange, by her husband’s cronies, and her abandonment on the Outer Hebrides. Playwright Sue Glover sympathetically reimagines this maligned figure and through her, the whole question of society’s treatment of unconventional women.” Jane Darcy, The Reviews Hub

“Playwright Sue Glover cleverly interweaves an intricate tartan, coloured with themes that illuminate how society persists in suppressing women; ideas of liberty, Christian morality, civilisation, isolation, and strength through female bonding.” Mary Pollard, Everything Theatre

“She [Lady Grange] is a wonderfully drawn character.” Jane Darcy, The Reviews Hub

“Sue Glover’s well crafted play has finally made it to London.” William Russell, ReviewsGate

“Glover’s imaginative writing makes us visualise the heady views from the cliffs.” Jane Darcy, The Reviews Hub

“Rori Hawthorn (Isabel) and Siobhan Redmond (Rachel) are perfectly matched, circling each other with suspicion, fascination and, eventually, respect.” Gary Naylor, Broadway World

“Hawthorn and Bain tenderly unfold the tentative passion of a couple falling in love after marriage.” Jenny Booth, Time and Leisure

“Magnificent performances.” Jonathan Evans, Spy In The Stalls

“The cast’s haunting singing is entirely captivating and complemented by the strangely unfamiliar but intensely musical spoken Gaelic language in the script.” Mary Pollard, Everything Theatre

“Siobhan Redmond is mesmerising as this wild woman, capturing her mercurial moods changes, from loftily regal to vengeful and vicious. She can be mischievously playful too.” Jane Darcy, The Reviews Hub

“Redmond’s remarkable performance.” David Weir, London Pub Theatres

“Only an actress as experienced as Siobhan Redmond could bring off a character so complex, showing the variety in her moods and compelling the audience to sympathise with and dislike her at the same time. Redmond gives a virtuoso performance that shouldn’t be missed.” Jenny Booth, Time and Leisure

“Great performances and something of a coup for the Finborough to have the great Siobhan Redmond in the lead role.” Kevin Lloyd, Stage Door

“Siobhan Redmond puts in a bravura performance and dominates the stage whenever she appears." Jim Cooke, London Living Large

“Redmond’s performance is utterly magnificent, displaying every emotion from burning rage to madness to childlike sadness.” Mary Pollard, Everything Theatre

“Siobhan Redmond, playing Lady Grange, deserves a particular mention as the fervour which she brings to the role tugs on the audience’s heart strings.” Viv Williams, West End Best Friend

“Siobhan Redmond’s beautiful, tragic, lost gaze as a phase of her frozen existence comes to an end is a final, haunting image.” David Weir, London Pub Theatres

“The performances are very good indeed with Siobhan Redmond creating a wonderfully distraught, half mad woman who clings to that chair, the one status symbol she has left, a victim of the way women were treated at the time.” William Russell, ReviewsGate

“The relationship between Oona (convincingly played by Jenny Lee) and Lady Grange is nuanced and incredibly funny at times.” Viv Williams, West End Best Friend

“Siobhan Redmond is a force as the unhinged Grange – sexual and dangerous; one minute syrup and flirtation, the next acid and acrimony.” Jonathan Evans, Spy In The Stalls

“Siobhan Redmond brings a sense of tattered glamour to Lady Rachel.” Louise Penn, LouReviews

“Rori Hawthorn is perfectly cast as Isabel.” Jane Darcy, The Reviews Hub

“Rori Hawthorn does a fine job of rendering Isabel's gradual integration into the humane values of the harsh island life, while Finlay Bain is equally strong as her hidebound husband who comes to realise the cruel and unfair power dynamics of the society he represents.” Jim Cooke, London Living Large

“Hawthorn is endearing as the young, naïve wife.” Mary Pollard, Everything Theatre

“Hawthorn herself directing and performing the play’s haunting Gaelic psalms and songs.” Jane Darcy, The Reviews Hub

“As well as commanding the stage, Hawthorn (with co-violinist, Elisabeth Flett) provides a lyrical, pre-recorded underscore.” Jonathan Evans, Spy In The Stalls

“Rori Hawthorn…sings Gaelic songs beautifully for a musical memory of island life.” Lizzie Loveridge, Theatre Vibe

“Hawthorn in particular, excels as Isobel.” David Weir, London Pub Theatres

“Rori Hawthorn, who plays Isabel, a naive young woman newly married to an Edinburgh missionary, is destined to be a star.” Rachel Cooke, The Guardian

“The growing erotic charge beween her [Isabel] and Aneas is palpable and this is where we see Finlay Bain at his best.” Jane Darcy, The Reviews Hub

“Finlay Bain creates an innocent lost in this world of women.” William Russell, ReviewsGate

“Finely played by Finlay Bain.” Lizzie Loveridge, Theatre Vibe

“Lee is delightful as Gaelic Oona, impressively giving voice to the values of the outlying community using its authentic tongue; hers is a flawless yet appropriately modest performance.” Mary Pollard, Everything Theatre

“Jenny Lee plays Lady Grange’s St Kildan attendant Oona with stoicism and dignity, and makes us vividly imagine life on the unforgiving landscapes of Hirta and Bororay.” Jenny Booth, Time and Leisure

“Jenny Lee as Oona, the island woman who is her warder, manages to be both sympathetic and totally callous at the same time.” William Russell, ReviewsGate

“Jenny Lee, wonderful as the no-nonsense Oona.” Jonathan Evans, Spy In The Stalls

“Jenny Lee gives a rounded performance which is crucial and touching.” Louise Penn, LouReviews

“Acting kudos also go to Jenny Lee.” Jim Cooke, London Living Large

"The uniform excellence of their own performances.” David Weir, London Pub Theatres

“This fascinating play is well-directed by Polly Creed and has some top-notch performances.” Jim Cooke, London Living Large

“Director, Polly Creed, captures Isabel's claustrophobia, the product of the constant surveillance a 'foreigner' invites in such a society.” Gary Naylor, Broadway World

“Polly Creed’s direction is assured.” Louise Penn, LouReviews

“Sensitively explored by director Polly Creed.” Jenny Booth, Time and Leisure

“Polly Creed’s direction carefully balances scenes with shifting atmospheres which paired with Jonathan Chan’s lighting design creates a strong emotional landscape to the narrative.” Viv Williams, West End Best Friend

“Alex Marker’s inventive set design convincingly recreates this remote island.” Jane Darcy, The Reviews Hub

“Given the very intimate space, and with the help of the lighting and sound design, audiences can easily picture the Outer Hebrides in the 18th century.” Selina Begum, The Upcoming

“The Straw Chair needs a strong sense of place, which it gets largely from Anna Short's sound design, all gulls and wind.” Gary Naylor, Broadway World

“Beautifully detailed costume design by Carla Joy-Evans.” Viv Williams, West End Best Friend

"Fabulous to look at.” David Weir, London Pub Theatres

“Anna Short’s sound design is excellent.” Jane Darcy, The Reviews Hub

“The staging is made rich through understated, evocative lighting from Jonathan Chan and Anna Short’s expressive sound design.” Mary Pollard, Everything Theatre

“Costume Designer Carla Joy Evans has the cast dressed in authentic linen clothes with no Velcro or zips in sight!” Lizzie Loveridge, Theatre Vibe

“There is considerable beauty in this simply staged show, where sensitive lighting and sound effects successfully convey atmosphere.” Jenny Booth, Time and Leisure

19 April - 14 May 2022

Tickets and Times

Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday 7:30pm
Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 3:00pm
7:30pm
Sunday 3:00pm

Approximately two hours and fifteen minutes with one interval of fifteen minutes