Corn Exchange, Dorchester

AHEAD of her time in just about every way, Ethel Smyth gets the full-on treatment from operatic singer Lucy Stevens in this jaw dropping biography that is quite simply amazing.

With words and music, she tells the story of a remarkable composer who tackled the universal prejudice against women by going into battle and winning the respect of the musical world with her compositions, not least the March for Women song which became the signature tune for the suffragette movement.

Lucy Stevens, with the hugely talented Elizabeth Marcus at the piano, recounts authentic dialogues and articles from the past and sings extracts from Dame Ethel’s opera The Wreckers, even singing tenor and bass as well as soprano and her preferred voice range of contralto, a stunning piece of vocal skill that few people could emanate.

As she tells us about Dame Ethel’s life and her many compositions, we are treated to prerecorded orchestral versions being played gently in the background to give the audience a taste of the talent of this formidable woman who truly grasped the nettle in her fight for equality for women.

“There is no sex in art”, Lucy quotes in strident tones while telling us of Dame Ethel’s time in Holloway Prison alongside Mrs Pankhurst and her outrage when she realised during a performance of one of her operas that it was being cropped whereupon she immediately removed all the scores, now that is passion personified.

This truly remarkable piece of theatre is fitting testament to a dramatic talent and only Lucy Stevens could give it the resounding voice it deserves.