Pennsylvania Castle, Easton, Portland

STRONG women are currently being celebrated in our society and nobody fits that description more than Dr Marie Stopes, a remarkable academic, writer and controversial campaigner for the promotion of birth control.

This production, written by Peter John Cooper and commissioned and performed by AsOne Theatre, examines the life and times of Dr Stopes, focussing on her association with Portland and the Old Lighthouse which was her haven for peace and tranquillity while her role as a fossil fuel scientist and her support of the Portland Museum are also touched upon.

The cast of four, led by the winning Jane McKell as Marie Stopes, take on a variety of roles in an informative and stimulating drama that tells of one woman’s fight to give freedom of choice to couples and to women in particular by initiating controlled family planning.

Telling a story about such a passionate and eccentric woman is no easy task and Cooper has handled it with great skill and tact, in particular by addressing Stopes’ obsession with eugenics and the darker side of her beliefs. The author does this by bringing into the drama a young quarryman and his awkward love life which talks about some of the worrying aspects of genetic inheritance that Stopes strongly supported.

Eitjo De Vries makes a marvellous job of portraying the rustic Portland character as well as taking on the role of being the author himself and even being Stopes’s pet dog, an amusing and lovable pooch.

The gorgeous Sorcha Martin and Phoebe Sharman complete the skilful ensemble in their varied roles, bringing vitality and understanding to a story that is interesting, stimulating and even tells us about those furry animals that Portland people love to hate.

The play is currently on an extensive national tour and can be seen at Bournemouth on October 18th and Lyme Regis on October 25th before arriving at Dorchester and Weymouth in the New Year, definitely an unmissable occasion.