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Jude Alderson - A Soldier's Woman Interview

A Soldier's Woman is a fabulous, thought-provoking piece of theatre. Breaking down patriarchal imperialism and honouring the liberation of women, gender expression and sexual freedom.

Written, directed and composed by Jude Alderson, 'The punk Piaf', founder of feminist theatre/cabaret company and band Sadista Sisters. Jude is the winner of the Peggy Ramsey Award and Year of the Artist award in 2000 for her large-scale community piece A People’s Opera written for a cast of 65 and a string orchestra.

Jude Alderson describes the importance of the show's themes, especially around ‘the theme of free-spirited women, not just being victims but finding a way of expressing themselves and really growing’.

The cast in rehearsals. Photo by Bob Dela

Ahead of the show running at The Cockpit Theatre in London on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th July, I sat down with Jude to discuss the show.

Can you tell me what inspired the production?
There was a little blip in the mid 19th century when working-class women were able to turn their hand to entertainment in quite an unusual way. They mined their own stories and often turned them into songs, sometimes making big money doing it. This often involved disguising themselves as men. I find this world fascinating, and where the inspiration came from. 

Vesta Tilley, Burlington Bertie from Bow, even Marie Lloyd strutted the stage as a swaggering soldier or womanising dandy. As a forerunner to the feminist tradition, they humorously encouraged their largely female audiences to reconsider their lives with unsympathetic husbands and run away with them!

What research did you have to do whilst writing the piece?
Lots! Read Henry Mayhew, scoured the British Library and listened to lots of 19th-century songs.

You touch on some things including “Breaking down patriarchal imperialism and honouring the liberation of women, gender expression and sexual freedom.” How important was it to include those themes in the show?
Important but I'm not university educated, so I wouldn't always refer to it in that way (the producer described it as the above). There is a stereotypical view of Victorian women that you see echoed in television dramas that I find distasteful. These were rough and raucous times for many working-class woman, who longed for freedom and safety. The themes are important, but I've aimed for balance.

The cast in rehearsals. Photo by Bob Dela.

How do you approach those issues whilst still making an entertaining piece?

Because I'm a genius!

By using humour, subversion and working with amazing actors. And trusting the power of theatre! Working within the theatre is a magical experience - if you've got a developed imagination on your side, it'll never let you down.

My style of theatre, that I've been honing for several years, is influenced by Epic theatre and didactic storytelling. I've been using song as a form of expressionism that enables the work to move seamlessly between naturalism, symbolism and other forms of theatre.

What do you want an audience to take away from seeing the show?
I want them to be talking about it late into the night!

What shows/performances have inspired you?
Kristin Scott Thomas in Electra, Sarah Niles in The Three Sisters, David Warner or Richard Harris in almost anything.

Can you describe the show in 3 words?
Exhilarating, thought-provoking, rough-and-ready.

A Soldier's Woman plays at London's Cockpit Theatre on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th July. Tickets are available from

Photo by Bob Dela.

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