Casting has been announced for Agatha, a bold new production based on real life events that combines spoken word, original music and dialogue to bring personal experience to the stage. West End theatre, film and TV star Olivia Carruthers (Life, BBC; Life After George, Duchess Theatre; Four Weddings and a Funeral, MGM TV) will play Agatha alongside Suzanna Hamilton (Nineteen Eighty-Four, Virgin Films; EastEnders, BBC; The Strike, BBC) as Rose, and award-winning writer and actor Gemma Barnett (Goggles, ThisEgg; A Hundred Words for Snow, Trafalgar Studios; Dr Korczak’s Example, Leeds Playhouse) as Jo. Agatha will be directed by Martha Geelan (The Shark is Broken, Ambassadors Theatre; Fiddler on the Roof, The Playhouse Theatre; Indecent, Menier Chocolate Factory). Originally programmed as part of VAULT Festival 2022, where Gemma Barnett was part of the inaugural Vault Five, Agatha has been rehomed to Pleasance Downstairs this Spring.
Jo has a decision to make. Stuck in the car, she needs someone to tell her what to do; what she wants; why she’s here. Agatha is dead and living her dream life running a blues bar in the afterlife. Set across three generations of women in the same family, this moving production portrays the spikiness of mother-daughter relationships and the most intense love that can be intertwined amongst the thorns.
Based on real life events, Agatha tells an intergenerational story of women battling lost dreams, coping mechanisms and each other. Writer and performer Gemma Barnett draws on her own family relationships with incredible honesty to present this production.
First written as spoken poetry, Agatha developed for the stage as Barnett reflected on the awkwardness and discomfort surrounding women’s desires, dreams and truths. This was further driven by heated debates on abortion laws in America, seeing protesters at BPAS clinics harrass women and the death of a Polish woman from sepsis 22 weeks into pregnancy. Following research with the charity Alliance for Choice, this production pulls together different issues, including the continued misogyny in medicine, with Gemma’s own family memories.
Agatha is not a show that debates the ethics of abortion. It is a nuanced representation of what happens to three generations of women when one has been denied the choice. Composer Katy Hustwick (This Beautiful Future, Jermyn St Theatre; HOLE, Jermyn St Theatre) cleverly fuses music with spoken word and dialogue to underscore the beat of Agatha, while Lucy Adams (Ordinary Miracle, National Youth Theatre; dressed., ThisEgg; Art Heist, Underbelly/New Diorama) also brings her talents as Lighting Designer.
Director Martha Geelan commented: “What strikes me most about this extraordinary piece that Gemma has written, is how deeply it speaks to the complexities of female identity. The trauma, love and expectation that women pass down through generations – it shapes who we are and what we feel we are supposed to want. How do we know how we are making the right decisions? Who do we base our choices on? How do we learn to be the best versions of ourselves?”
Agatha is a resonating reflection of familial relationships and the impact of inherited trauma, bitterness, pride and awe.
Agatha runs at the Pleasance from Tuesday 1 – Saturday 5 March 2022.
Photo credit: Greta Mitchell Photography