Sylvia: The story of Bow’s most radical Pankhurst comes to the Old Vic Theatre

The life of the lesser-known Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst comes dancing, singing and roaring onto the stage for its world premiere at The Old Vic Theatre. 

Sylvia, the Old Vic’s newest musical celebrating the life of Bow’s Sylvia Pankhurst takes to the stage on Friday 27 January 2023. 

Uniting dance, hip hop, funk and soul, the story of the lesser-known Pankhurst has been adapted for the stage, retelling this timeless story through the popular mode of historical hip hop musical, which might also teach you a few things about the suffragettes that you didn’t know before. 

A household name in the UK, most people are aware of Emmeline Pankhurst’s role in founding the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the late 19th Century. But many outside our neighbourhood won’t be familiar with Sylvia’s story, the lesser-known Pankhurst who split with the WSPU after a schism in the Pankhurst family

Unlike the WSPU which only concentrated on securing the vote for upper-middle class women, Sylvia championed the rights of women at lower levels of society, which would ultimately see her expelled from the group, establishing her own more radical branch of the Union in Bow. 

Initially presented at The Old Vic as a work-in-progress in September 2018, Sylvia was originally commissioned to mark a centenary of women’s suffrage. Now, after five years of development, it returns to the stage where it started.

The production does not shy away from showing Emmeline to be a bitter manipulator with a dim view of the working class, who is played by Beverley Knight. Sharon Rose will play the titular character of Sylvia, though it is Emmeline who is the starring role. The production was directed and choreographed by Kate Prince. 

Running from 27 January to 1 April 2023, Sylvia spans all of Women’s History Month in March and includes a special Cast in Conversation to mark International Women’s Day on Wednesday 8 March. 

Find the Old Vic at: The Cut, London SE1 8NB

If you enjoyed reading this piece, you might like our article about Sylvia Pankhurst and cycling for Suffrage.


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