Drama student Charlotte Jones has been inspired to pursue a career in theatre thanks to the support of staff, friends and colleagues at Edge Hill.
The 20-year-old from Bangor-on-Dee in Wrexham, North Wales, who is associate director of the University’s ‘Mrs Pankhurst’s Players’ feminist theatre collective, was unsure whether to focus on performing or working backstage before taking on her Drama degree.
“When speaking to the tutors, they made me feel very welcome and explained that the course would be structured to suit me, something I was very anxious about. I just felt at home. The University has given me the opportunity to try out all different roles and directing was one that seemed to stick.”
Charlotte, who attended The Maelor School in Penley, officially started in her role in September 2017 when studying the module ‘The Art of the Actor and Rise of the Director’ – and has continued to expand her knowledge and experience.
“I have loved directing,” she admitted. “I’ve met so many interesting people and have been able to find my own way of working.
“Before starting, I thought I would have to work in a certain way and would have to have everything planned from the get-go. This isn’t the case: ideas form in the rehearsal room and it’s good to work with actors you can bounce ideas off to make a piece come to life. I have loved having that creative freedom.”
Charlotte’s first production with Mrs Pankhurst’s Players was Elizabeth Robin’s 1907 play, Votes for Women, performed as part of Edge Hill’s Festival of Ideas 2018.
“With this, not only have we staged the play but have done school workshops and street theatre celebrating the centenary of some women getting the right to vote.”
Social media has played a role in promoting the group – an added responsibility Charlotte has taken on.
“We have been able to gain connections with different theatre companies, which has meant that we have been able to get our company name out there.”
The group recently completed a college workshop with Kendal College, where the first act of the play ‘Votes for Women’ was performed with a Suffragette workshop.
“This meant that through acting, the students were able to have a glimpse at what life was like for the Suffragettes and how difficult it was to them to get the right to vote,” Charlotte notes.
Charlotte has also retained her link with the Activate Performing Arts Youth Theatre in North Wales, with whom she began voluntary work five years ago. She’s planning on returning to help stage manage shows again this summer.
“I work backstage and help run productions, making sure the children are in their places at the right time, helping with costume changes, setting up props, etc. I have helped many shows but a big one was the Shakespeare festival in 2016 when we ran eight shows in under two weeks.”
Next up for the ‘Panks’ in 2019 is a radical adaption of Shakespeare play, The Taming of the Shrew, told under the name of ‘Shrew’, which is set to be performed on International Women’s Day on 8 March.
“We will be focusing on the idea of human trafficking and how that plays out in modern society. We will be raising money in support for victims of human trafficking and are hoping to tour the show to spread more awareness.”
Charlotte, who is currently weighing up whether to pursue a Masters degree or seek employment in theatre, is grateful for her university experience.
“Edge Hill has given me so many opportunities to not only expand my knowledge, but plenty of occasions where I have been forced to put my skills to the test; whether that is directing as a part of my course or working in Mrs Pankhurst’s Players to direct shows and installations, something I would love to carry out into the future.”
Charlotte was selected for an Excellence Scholarship in 2018, being awarded £2,000 towards her studies.