Lillies of the Land is a frank and extremely well-researched play on the work carried out by the land girls during the war. Performed by two deaf and two hearing actors.
The war effort by the Land Ladies during World War 1 and 2 isn’t given the representation in the media they truly deserved. Without them, farms would have struggled and many people in the United Kingdom would have starved.
Phillipa Russell and Zoë McWhinney are both deaf actors. Russell combined sign language and speech. Whereas McWhinney used BSL throughout the play. Alongside Sarah Craig and Charmaine Wombwell, the two main verbal narrators combine some sign language into the narrative.
The storytelling explains the hard work and exploitation some of the land girls faced. Subjected to physical abuse, underpaid, if paid at all and harsh living conditions. The sense of duty kept them going. Yet I do wonder if they must have been exhausted and felt like giving up at times.
I had the added advantage of my guest this evening being deaf, which allowed her to understand everything that was going on during the performance and feel included. She mentioned that there aren’t words in BSL for everything and that McWhinney did an almost five-star performance in signing almost word perfect and being creative with some of the interpretations. Personally, my level of understanding is almost non-existent so I was intrigued to hear it from her perspective.
British Sign Language is starting to be used more often in mainstage Theatre which opens up the stage for deaf audience members, which is fantastic. The cast of four would have worked hard to be aware of each other’s body language and movements to follow each other’s next direction as verbal cues would not have always been possible. Each cast member appeared to follow each other with ease bringing an incredible achievement to the stage. A fitting tribute to all those land girls during the Wars.
For more information on this production and its current tour please use the links below.