Save the Children’s centenary celebrations continue with the play ‘Eglantyne’

Written by Sue Round on .

Anne Chamberlain as Eglantyne Jebb in the eponymous productionAnne Chamberlain as Eglantyne Jebb in the eponymous productionIn honour of the centenary of the founding of Save the Children on May 19, a play celebrating the life of Eglantyne Jebb, the organisation’s founder, is coming to St. Peter’s Church, Marlborough on Friday June 7.  Eglantyne Jebb lived in Marlborough and taught at St. Peter’s School from 1898 to 1899. 

Written and performed by New Zealander Anne Chamberlain, ‘Eglantyne’ has toured to critical acclaim in New Zealand, Australia and the UK. Last year it was performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Brighton Fringe. 

This year a special tour to celebrate the centenary of Save the Children is taking the play to diverse locations such as: Eglantyne’s family home in Shropshire, The Other Place theatre in Stratford upon Avon, Scotland and Beirut and Marlborough.

Anne Chamberlain, who has considerable experience working in film, theatre, television and festivals was inspired to write the play in 2014 after working in communications for Save the Children. 

Anne told  “This was the first time I heard of Eglantyne and I felt ashamed I had never heard of her, particularly because of her legacy of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child which inspired today’s UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

Anne read Clare Mulley’s biography of Eglantyne, ‘The Woman Who Saved the Children’, and immediately began to see how Eglantyne’s life story could be told as a solo piece of theatre.

She felt compelled to visit the Shropshire home where Eglantyne grew up.  “It was fantastic to walk where she did.” 

After a great deal of research using Eglantyne’s personal papers, letters and diaries ‘Eglantyne’ the play was born.

“The play covers the whole sweep of her life in seventy-five minutes.  I wanted to concentrate on the personal.  There is no audio of her but I gained a sense of her speech rhythms through reading her letters and diaries.”

“The play contains her heartbreaks and disappointments as well as the big heroic moments like the rally in Trafalgar Square and the public meeting in 1919 in the Albert Hall when Save the Children was formed in order to help children suffering from the famine in Europe.”

“The play reveals her struggle as a teacher in Marlborough and is peppered with other important people in her life such as her sister, Dorothy.”

“There has never been a play or a film about Eglantyne and yet she was an absolute visionary with a strong social conscience. I hope the play will touch people’s consciences. We still have huge humanitarian struggles in the world today. I hope it will encourage people to think, ‘What can I do ?’ ”

“The play also explores the idea of what shapes a life, the struggles as well as the high points, the twists and turns. Ultimately I hope audiences find the play entertaining as a piece of theatre.”

‘Eglantyne’ will be performed on Friday June 7 at 7.30pm in St.Peter’s Church. Tickets are £10, entrance is free for children and are available from White Horse Bookshop or contact 01672 851925

A talk by Eglantyne Jebb’s biographer, Clare Mulley will be given to Marlborough History Society on Thursday May 16 at 7.30pm in St Peter’s Church.  Click here for more information.