Jennie Lee – Review – Marsden Mechanics Hall

Jennie Lee - Marsden Mechanics hall Review

By Steve Crabtree, April 2024

April is a great time of year.  Spring has sprung, the nights get lighter, and Mikron Theatre begins its theatre tour at Marsden Mechanics.

This year, the company have launched with Jennie Lee. A story about a monumental woman who was a Labour MP and had one hell of a life. Professionally and personally.

The daughter of a miner, she became the first female in the House of Commons despite not being old enough to vote. She also founded the Open University, and married NHS founder Nye Bevan too, making her an advocate of politics, education and healthcare for all.

There’s trials, trauma and there’s quite the story to tell, and the Mikron did her tale proud.

Jennie Lee - Marsden Mechanics hall Review

“Warm, tenacious, bold and rebellious”

I’ve enjoyed many past Mikron productions, such as Twitchers and Raising Agents, but this one probably packed more power than the aforementioned.  Those performances told profound tales, and entertained with much song and frivolity.  Whereas this one, written by Lindsay Rodden came at us with a more serious spine. Injections of laughter, yes – but more to think about.

Lauren Robinson played the lead role of Jennie, and was excellent as she took us through her life. From impressionable child, to strong, passionate adult, and into problematic later years. Leading the line really well, she had a presence on the stage that made us all take heed. Warm, tenacious, bold and rebellious.

And around her, as is the norm with Mikron, we had three fantastic actors in various roles, and swapping in and out of character with the donning of a hat, or a fastening of a coat.

Eddie Ahrens charmed as Nye Bevan, and made us laugh elsewhere, and debutant Mark Emmons did a fine job where a bit of daft comedy was required, also playing a blinder as Jennie’s father.

Then, there’s a big acknowledgement for Georgina Liley – whose role as Jennie’s mum was lovely, and cameo as Margaret Thatcher brought the house down.  With laughter, claps and boos!

Jennie Lee - Marsden Mechanics hall Review

“Musically on-point”

Jennie Lee became a Baroness in later life, and after all her sucesses and defiance in the face of adversity, there was just the one thing that she couldn’t beat.  The production tastefully handled her problems with alcohol, and Robinson handled her demise in drink nicely. I think we all felt sad to learn that she died with a battle lost, after living with so many battles won.

As always, the cast played their own instruments throughout the show and the range of accordions, guitars and various brass instruments meant that this was musically on-point too. Some fantastic musical direction thanks to Robert Cooper, and composed nicely by Sonum Batra.

I was educated by this show, and the standing ovation at the end of it proved that Jennie Lee is a brilliant, important piece of theatre, which appealed to everybody. A production that has to be up there with one of the best that Mikron has ever done.

Jennie Lee tours various venues until 19th October 2024. For tickets:
Images: Robling Photography


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