Last Thursday, Beth Flintoff’s The Glove Thief opened at UTM’s Erindale Theatre. Directed by Meredith Scott, the show takes audiences back to 1589 when Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth I. The historical drama follows a group of Elizabethan tapestry-makers who, under machinations of men, sew their way through political unrest while charting their own paths in English history.
Prior to the show’s opening, The Medium caught up with Emma Ratcliffe and Samantha Dodds, who play Queen Elizabeth and Rose 2 respectively, to talk about the show, their preparations, and what they hope audiences will take away from watching it.
The Medium: Can you tell me what The Glove Thief is about?
Emma Ratcliffe: The Glove Thief is partially based on the feud between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, but it has a fresh take on it with the inclusion of Bess of Hardwick, who was another historical figure [and] the richest woman of England. She takes in a lower-class girl named Rose, who becomes her servant, and they uncover the plot of what was going on with Mary, Queen of Scots, who was living in her house.
Samantha Dodds: The play is about the relationships between the women and how they kept themselves busy [with tapestry] for all the time they were imprisoned in Bess’ house. Also, the relationship between Elizabeth and Mary, even though they never met, but how that relationship existed through letters.
TM: What characters do you play and how do they differ from each other?
ER: We’re a lot different! We actually don’t interact much with each other in the play.
SD: I play Rose 2 who is the future version of Rose who is the servant that Bess takes in to help her in the castle. She is very low class and was living on the street when Bess finds her. When Bess takes her into the castle, she experiences warmth and love for the first time.
ER: I play Queen Elizabeth I. More of my material was about female leadership and what it means to be a woman in power. [Elizabeth] was always surrounded by men because that was how it was in history even though the play centres around female relationships. [She] had a lot of male advisors helping her and [the play] follows her journey through a lot of political unrest… having to navigate men who keep trying to control her even though she technically has the power [over them].
TM: What was the preparation and rehearsal process like?
SD: We had to do a lot of research on the time period and the actual people that others are portraying. For me, because Rose is not based on a real person, I did a lot of research on what it was like for peasants in that era and what life would be like without living in a castle or having money.
ER: Definitely a lot of research and table reads. Meredith’s a really amazing director who’s very specific [about her vision]. There was a lot of detail work, which is where the good stuff happens, such as getting down to the objectives, specifics, tactics. We rehearsed for six weeks.
TM: As you both mentioned, the play is set in a different time period. What were some of the challenges with having to act in a time period that’s so far removed from modern day society?
SD: I think the biggest challenge were the dresses, but because Meredith is taking such a contemporary look on the period, it didn’t feel that challenging. One of the things you have to remember is the people who are playing with status have to embody that characteristic when you see them. Meredith has a really good way with saying “who would the queen be like if you saw them in real life?” Meredith found a way to make the play accessible for modern day audiences.
ER: The show has a very contemporary take on it. We’re still playing in the time period, but Meredith brings that distant period together with the present. [We are able to see] parallels that are still happening today with society. It wasn’t too challenging aside from getting the corsets and props down.
TM: Female empowerment is a central them within this play, how do your characters embody that?
ER: My character has a lot to say about female leadership. There’s a lot of female empowerment at all levels of status. Every woman who is on stage is trapped in some way or another and even though they are different from one another, they’re all dealing with the same thing. Mary is literally trapped in a tower. Rose is trapped by her circumstances, but she [eventually] breaks free of them to some extent. Bess is trapped by a marriage that doesn’t make her happy. Everyone is on the same boat regardless of status.
SD: Rose is trapped by her circumstances. At the beginning, you see her having no real way of moving on with her life. But when she’s taken into the castle, she’s empowered by Bess and the other women she sees around her and how they give her a sense of comradery. I think that’s really important for Rose and her journey.
TM: What do you enjoy the most about playing your characters? Are there any similarities or differences that you share with the characters?
ER: Elizabeth’s really feisty and I think that’s super relatable. A lot of the script is like that with all the characters. I love getting to transform into her with the costumes because it’s very different from how we dress in real life. Although there are differences, I feel very connected to the material.
SD: Rose has this wild spirit that’s having to wear these fancy dresses. She wants to have a good time which I relate to and so it’s fun to play someone who is not used to wearing corsets. But my character is the older version of Rose 1 so she has had more experience wearing corsets, but it’s still fun to dress up.
TM: What are some unexpected things you can reveal about the show?
SD: You can hear Lizzo! [Laughs]
ER: There’s a few pop songs in the play.
TM: Lastly, what do you hope viewers will take away from the show?
SD: The obvious one is that although the time period seems so far away, what the women then went through is still relevant today.
ER: I think Rose’s arc is still so touching. Even though she doesn’t completely break free of everything that’s against her in her life, seeing her go from where she was in her life at the beginning of the play to the end where she’s starting a new chapter is really empowering. Knowing that women can change their circumstances if they are given opportunities to do so is an important lesson that audiences can take away from watching our show.
The Glove Thief runs from October 24 to November 3 at Erindale Theatre.