Pitlochry Festival Theatre and the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh
If you’d asked me who Sophia Jex-Blake was before listening to this play, I’d be ashamed to say that I did not know. Despite considering myself a feminist, and devouring the stories of women throughout history, Sophia’s name was not one I was familiar with. Thankfully, this play has rectified my oversight. Sophia Jex-Blake fought for women to have the right to a medical education and went on to become the first practising female doctor in Scotland. And this stunning new play, Sophia, tells her story.
This is the third play I’ve listened to as part of the Pitlochry Festival Theatre and the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh‘s new audio-digital theatre platform Sound Stage, and it’s another of exceptional high quality which transported me to another world. Suddenly I’m not sitting on my sofa in Wandsworth, instead I’m standing with Sophia and her fellow female students in the late 1800’s, facing the animosity from the men around them as they try to fight for the right to a medical education.
Our heroine, played by Madeleine Worrall, portrays such strength of character yet sacrifices so much to get what she desires. Sophia’s personal life is shared alongside her professional struggles, with the two loves of her life effectively used to share her story. Sophia’s former student and final lover, Margaret (Fletcher Mathers) is writing a book about Sophia’s life, and she boldly asks another of Sophia’s loves (Natalie Grady) to proofread her book. It’s a clever plot device, allowing reflection on many aspects of Sophia’s life and struggles in a relatively short play.
The quality of the recording, the sound scape and all the cast are all exceptionally high. As a result, it takes mere minutes to become enthralled in Sophia’s story. I found myself getting angry at the plight of these women, loudly agreeing when they question how men, who can’t concentrate if women are in the same lecture theatre, will ever be able to treat women in a hospital. The fact is that woman at that time were dying, because they didn’t want to tell a male doctor what was wrong. The utter absorption of the story is testament to the impeccable way in which the play is recorded. There’s not one weak link.
By the end of the play you’ll have such a full understanding of this incredible woman and the fight she struggled with for so many years. Having started the play not knowing who she was, come the end I felt like I understood the passions and struggles of Sophia Jex-Blake intimately. I won’t forget her name.
Written by: Frances Poet
Directed by: Janys Chambers
Produced by: Pitlochry Festival Theatre and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh in collaboration with Naked Productions
Sophia plays as part of Sound Stage series. Further information and booking via the below link.