Arts & Entertainment


People can expect a reimagining of history as we’ve always known it with the play Fallen, showing at The Seymour Centre. It’s a very different kind of period drama that takes a more feminist approach.

“Fallen just doesn’t peer into an 1848 period institution, there’s other questions posed. It’s a real provocation to challenge the way we understand history,” explained Fallen’s Director Penny Harpham.

Urania Cottage, London, was a home founded by famous writer Charles Dickens and wealthy banking heiress Angela Burdett-Coutts. It was established as a reformatory for fallen women as an alternative to the workhouses and prisons. The women were handpicked by Dickens for a different kind of rehabilitation. They were taught to cook, clean, sew and sing, things women of their station were never given the opportunity to do. There were two conditions of the home; they could never speak about their past, unless to Dickens (who wrote about these conversations in his notebooks and based characters in his books on them); and when finished with their training at Urania Cottage they couldn’t to go back to London but had to get on a ship and move to the colonies, and either marry the settlers or become domestic servants.

Fallen explores themes of sexual freedom, patriarchal society and resilience. Playwright Seanna van Helten has used the book The House of Fallen Women published in 2009 by historian Jenny Hartley, as inspiration. The play is an imagining of what happened not actual fact.

There’s a lot of joy in Fallen, which sends a strong message about women believing in each other and the positivity of being female. “The play is a political act in itself; that we made these women more important than Dickens, that’s feminism written into the text. We don’t put Dickens onstage. I’m almost positive if it were men running the show Dickens would be in it,” added Harpham.

Until Apr 22, 7:30pm. Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre, Cnr Cleveland Street & City Road, Chippendale. $35-$44. Tickets & Info: or Ph: 93517940

By Mel Somerville.

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