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Violet retells queer history – Bath Spa University

Bath Spa production brings queer history into the spotlight

Monday, 4 July, 2022

We may not be able to rewrite history, but a new play produced, written and recently performed by Bath Spa students aims to retell it.

The play, Violet, is based on the 1926 play The Captive by Édouard Bourdet. One of the first Broadway plays to feature lesbian characters, The Captive was so controversial at the time that it was eventually banned and the cast members were arrested after a performance.

Violet looks at relationships, love, and violence and aims to revisit queer history and put queer representation onto the stage,” MA Creative Producing student Beth Adams, the show’s producer, said. “As the producer of the show, I've been able to see it develop from start to finish and that has been a great experience!”

Beth said she was interested in reviving the play because of its use of symbolism and the history behind it. “I was drawn to revive this play and give the characters the story they deserved. Amy Johnson, the writer, did an excellent job to give the play a completely new life, and it has changed so much from that original point of inspiration,” she said. “And since Jess, our director, joined the team we were able to put together a really amazing cast that helped to bring the whole show to life.”

While Violet is based on the original 1926 play, Beth said the differences between the two plays are huge, and it's really an entirely different story. “One of the biggest differences is actually seeing Irene's relationship happen on stage,” she explained. “In the original play, Irene's lover is never seen. This was the first thing we addressed when creating Violet; we wanted to make sure the relationship wasn't hidden away.” In fact the title of the play refers to the flowers Irene’s lover leaves for her as a symbol of her love – the only representation she has in The Captive.

Talking about how she imagines a 1926 audience might view her play, Beth said, “Considering the pushback the original play had in 1926, I think the same audience would be shocked to see Violet today. What was hidden in The Captive has been brought to the forefront of Violet, and even for some modern audiences it’s too much to see an explicitly queer relationship.”

But bringing that relationship out into the open and onto the stage is part of the point. “For queer audiences, it’s so important to have shows that don't shy away from queer relationships and identities,” Beth said. “The most challenging thing has been ensuring we're doing it all justice, finding the balance between historically accurate and modernised queer culture to make sure our characters and our cast are given the best possible story to work with.”

The play was performed at the Mission Theatre in Bath as part of Bath Spa University’s Sparkfest 2022. It received excellent feedback from audiences who have been keen to hear what is coming next for the show.

“We'll definitely be continuing with Violet in the future, but we're planning on a different approach,” she explained. “Whilst we're pleased with how things went at Sparkfest, we're hoping to revisit our goals and change things up for next time.”

You can keep up to date and explore the play’s journey so far on the team’s Instagram.

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