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By Carlie Newman GTO

THE DIVINE MRS S is on at Hampstead Theatre, London (until 27April 2024. Box office: 020 7722 9301)

Rating ****

If any of your group are keen on theatre or interested in historical actors do book your group in to see this very interesting and amusing play at Hampstead Theatre.

Telling the story of Sarah Siddons (Rachel Stirling), the famous actress known particularly for her rendition of Lady Macbeth.  We are looking at the 18th century when it wasn’t deemed suitable for women to be on the stage. Sarah Siddons, however, was one of the main movers to show that women could be of good character and still act the part of a fallen woman or great Shakespearean character.

Along with her brother John Philip Kemble (Dominic Rowan), she worked at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane that he ran. While Kemble was very flamboyant and overacted, Siddons believed in what she did and gave good dramatic performances.

On a really good set showing Siddons’ dressing room as well as on stage we get a feeling of the actors in performance and also the real backstage. Siddons is at the stage in her life when she has to decide whether to be a wife and mother or to push for better roles where she can be what she calls a female Hamlet rather than just responding to the male lead.

One of her daughters has just died – another dies later – and she also has to put up with her unfaithful husband. She meets the female author of a play in which she is performing, De Montfort. Joanna Baillie (Eva Feiler) writes just one play which is, apparently, very good but Baillie is concerned about telling people her gender as she fears they won’t accept a female playwright.

Even the minor characters are well-played and Rachel Stirling (with a voice which reminds us of her mother Diana Rigg) is excellent in portraying the star actress who suffers from being a female actress in a world dominated by men.

Written by April De Angelis and directed by Anna Mackmin, the play has a lot of energy and id amusing, interesting and very well acted.
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