The QT

Wednesday 19 June 2024

Review: Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World

A show bursting with inspiring stories from some of history’s most formidable women is at Newcastle Theatre Royal for half term. Sam Wonfor took her own fantastic lass and reports back.
Deeds Not Words: some of the Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World. Credit Pamela Raith Photography

As a rule of thumb, I think I prefer to be pleasantly surprised rather than have high expectations.

Hence I left a thoroughly enjoyable performance  of Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World feeling slightly underwhelmed.

And I’m laying the blame firmly at the production’s association with smash hit musical SIX.

At the beginning of the accompanying blurb,  which is based on – and named after – the picture book by Kate Pankhurst (distant relation to Suffragette figurehead, Emmeline) is described as an ‘empowering pop musical’.

And to be fair, I’m absolutely on board with that.

During 1hr and 20mins, the we’re introduced to an iconic parade of  female figures from history.

From Marie Curie and Amelie Earhart to Frida Kahlo and Rosa Parks; from Emmeline Pankhurst and Jane Austen to Mary Anning and Gertrude Ederle – all and more are introduced to schoolgirl Jade, who is lost in more ways than one.

Each tell their inspiring story via a succession of catchy pop songs, guiding Jade – played  is smashing fashion by Georgia Grant-Anderson – to find the strength within herself to believe that everyone has it in them to change the world… because we all do.

Frida Kahlo Elena Breschi) brings A World of Colour to the stage. Credit: Pamela Raith Photography

Comedy is woven throughout the script, choreography and the witty lyrics – with Chloe Hart’s Jane Austen, Jennifer Caldwell’s Emmeline Pankhust and Elena Breschi’s Frida Kahlo standing out as our favourites for bringing the funny.

Directed by Amy Hodge, the show maintains an engaging energy from start to finish as we see wide-eyed Jade soaking up the advice and achievements of her guides and realising the possibilities for her own life are there for the taking.

The cast put quite the shift in with the aforementioned Hart, Caldwell and Breschi and  Leah Vassell playing at least three feminist legends a piece.

The simple set design gives off eighties kids TV vibes – in a nice way, with a three-piece live band overlooking the stage.

But back to the second half of that from-the-blurb sentence, which finishes ‘… from one of the producers of SIX’.

That was what had my 12-year-old visibly buzzing with excitement.

Having seen the Tony Award-winning SIX three times so far (and she’s very much lobbying to see it as many times as the title encourages) the thought of another kick-ass, no interval, glittering showcase of girl-power had her up a height.

And while she found it easy to list lots of favourite bits while we conducted a bus stop post-show analysis – the Suffragette anthem Deeds Not Words and Frida Kahlo’s A World of Colour performance being among them – she also had some constructive suggestions.

“It felt a bit like it was aimed at younger kids… a bit like Horrible Histories,” she said (speaking as a long time fan of the TV tellings of Terry Deary’s past-delving CBBC series).

“ I mean, I still really enjoyed it and would recommend it – but if they hadn’t put it in the same category as SIX, I probably would have thought it was loads better than I’m thinking now.”

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, it seems.

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is at Newcastle Theatre Royal until February 25. For tickets, visit or call the box office on 0191 232 7010.


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