My Name Is Dorothy

The first point to make clear is that My Name is Dorothy has nothing to do with The Wizard of Oz. It does have everything to do with the story of Dorothy Lawrence, who is far less famous, if not virtually unknown. This production is an attempt to redress this situation and educate us about a remarkable person who has been shamefully neglected by history.

Their treatment of the subject is honest, inspired and entertaining.

The young performers behind this campaign are Delphine Bueche and Drew Rafton of Crossbow Collective, by whom this piece was written and devised. Joining them in this company which brings together like-minded artists from Goldsmiths, University of London are directors Aiden O'Beirne and Frankie Thompson, producer Mila G.Lawlor

assisted by Bueche and choreographer Clare Phelan.

Lawrence’s life was a tragedy which arose out of her determination as a British journalist to visit the front during WW1. She succeeded and spent three weeks in France disguised as a soldier, before being apprehended and made a prisoner of war. Her attempts to establish herself as a writer resulted in censorship by the War Office. With increasingly unstable behaviour and lack of family, she was put into care and ultimately declared insane. She died after spending almost forty years in Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum.

The Crossbow Collective has turned this story into a gem of theatrical narrative. Their treatment of the subject is honest, inspired and entertaining. Using a Chaplinesque style and period songs, the historical context is firmly established. The multipurpose wooden cube makes for wartime simplicity and is ingeniously adapted to create numerous settings. The silhouette projections that transport us around Europe are a stroke of genius and the costumes further enhance the period setting. The pace hardly falters as the duo move from silent physical comedy to hard-hitting dialogue, interspersed with moments of poignant commentary. There are highly amusing exchanges in English and French, and recorded passages from her book. Bueche and Rafton capture characters, create moods and combine their talents with a skill way beyond their years and experience. Rarely have so many devices been employed so effectively.

This work is a joy from beginning to end. It takes a subject from a century ago and highlights its relevance in an age that talks about fake news, whistleblowers, misinformation and institutionalised repression. It’s a fitting tribute to Dorothy and a triumphant debut for the Crossbow Collective.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

Dorothy Lawrence, an aspiring British journalist, disguised herself as a soldier and spent three weeks undercover at the front in France during WWI. After her discovery, she was banned from journalism but wrote a book about her experiences which was finally published in 1919. Later in her life, she claimed under investigation that she was raped as a child by her churchman and was consequently sectioned and spent the rest of her life in Friern Hospital. Where is her story now?