Constance Marcievicz and Eva Gore-Booth, the subjects of a new piece of fringe theatre, were remarkable figures of the political tumult of the early 20th Century in Ireland and England.
The sisters were born into the English landowning aristocracy of colonised Ireland, but rejected their privileged upbringings. Instead, Eva went to England and became a trade union organiser amongst women textile workers in Lancashire. She sought to link the struggle of women workers for safe working conditions and better wages with the political campaign for female suffrage.
But Eva was also an important sexual radical. She founded and edited a women's journal that collected news items, articles and poetry from the struggles of women across the world. Urania advocated not only a future in which the stereotyped gender ideals of man and woman would ultimately be superseded, but also celebrated lesbianism.
Constance is a hero of the 1916 Easter Uprising, which launched the Irish Revolution. She led members of the Irish Citizen Army during the rebellion against British rule, but was arrested and imprisoned. In 1918, she became the first woman to be elected to the British parliament although she never took her seat, in line with Sinn Fein's policy of abstentionism. A year later, she was the first woman to serve in the Irish cabinet, and the second ever female European minister after Bolshevik Russia's Alexandra Kollontai.
The lives of these sisters connected the struggles for class, gender, sexual and national liberation during a period of world revolutions. Unfortunately, this production does little to bring out their exciting contributions.
The performance is a collage which mats together recitations of the sisters' letters with videos from protests and audio clips of the production team discussing the play. While this is an interesting idea, ultimately the self-conscious and self-referential form of Constance and Eva means that it is too much dominated by the broodings of its writers, which are sadly far less interesting than the lives of its subjects.