31st March 2017
First year Extended Diploma Musical Theatre students at York College are performing ‘The Matchgirls’, a musical by Bill Owen and Tony Russell, based on events around the London Matchgirls' strike of 1888.
The story tells of the appalling working conditions at the Bryant & May factory in Bow, where workers suffered from ‘Phossy Jaw’ (due to the white phosphorus from matches rotting their jaws away) and the ultimate rebellion of the women workers who railed against their working rights.
Featuring female factory workers living in shabby tenements, where the main character Kate (played by Lauren Gray and Hannah McClarron) turns into a reckless strike-leader, there’s also a sub-plot about her complicated courtship with docker Joe (played by Thomas McGovern). As the story unfolds, Liberal reformer Annie Besant (played by Morgan Handley and Katie Wilkinson) champions the strikers, playing a vital part in bringing about the workers' ultimate victory over the callous management.
Lauren Gray, aged 16 (formerly of Rodillian School, Wakefield) who plays the joint-lead role of Kate says: “The role has been really interesting to play and I’ve actually learnt a lot about the historical and feminist issues of the time. The first year of this course has been amazingly good fun. Each day I have been doing what I love; singing, acting and dancing. I am excited to study musical theatre at a top drama school when I leave College, hopefully at the Guildford School of Acting.”
Thomas McGovern, aged 17 (formerly of Northallerton College) has fully embraced the male lead character of Joe, saying: “This role brought me out of my shell. I have enjoyed performing ever since primary school and I think this role has done wonders for my confidence.” Thomas intends to progress to East 15 to study stage combat on leaving the College next year.
Performances of The Matchgirls are at the College’s Alan Ayckbourn Theatre on Wednesday 5th and Thursday 6th April (2.00pm and 7.00pm). Tickets: £5.00 and £4.00 available from the York College Box Office, tel: 01904 770492