On the Petticoat Front

14 May
Louise Jordan

Louise Jordan

Sunday night was not “All Quiet on the Swindon Arts Centre Front”. It was all over, not by Christmas, but by 9pm, but we craved more. Audience members had been transported back into the lives of hitherto, but no longer, forgotten heroines: women of the First World War.

Amongst others, we were evocatively introduced to these women: a scientist who designed a fan to save soldiers in trenches from enemy gas, a journalist who made it to the Front Line disguised as a man involving scouring her face to imitate shaving, munitions factory, charity-raising football teams, and spies.

Multi-talented artist Louise Jordan honoured the 25th Swindon Festival of Literature with her original performance No Petticoats Here. Not a petticoat in sight on stage tonight; the artist wore khaki jodhpur breeches with knee-high brown boots and high white collars with soldier cap as required.

In keeping with the headstrong women she discovered, Louise’s one woman show did not take any easy options in the staging. No Petticoats Here treated us to the Full Monty: keyboard, drum, guitars, laptop interplay, vocals, costumes and framed portraits. All these attributes were topped off with audience participation singing of sparse, but poignant, choruses.

Referring to the loss of males to marry due to the high number of war deaths as well as society’s negative attitude to women who had gained new freedoms through their necessary wartime occupations traditionally reserved for men, Louise wrote and sang Surplus Women.

“I’ll spin, I’ll spin, I’ll spin
I was born to be a spinster
And by God I’m gonna spin”

Louise owned the stage from the start, engaging the audience with her obvious passion, compassion and professionalism. There was variety in the performance but this was no Variety Show. Several times we were near to tears in the telling; skilful research was evident.

Throughout the hour long show, not a word seemed wasted and yet the Rubicon of ‘less is more’ seemed to be employed, since I came away feeling we wanted to hear more of Louisa’s ’less’.

Then there were the original songs written and composed by Louise and movingly delivered. You had to be there. I am probably breaking a reviewer’s rule in saying this but – you had to be there! Catch her next performance via www.nopetticoatshere.co.uk

Louise Jordan performed No Petticoats Here at Swindon Arts Centre as part of Swindon Festival of Literature on Sunday May 13. Words by Tony Hiller. Image © Fernando Bagué

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