Welsh National Opera brings life of pioneering suffragette Lady Rhondda, Margaret Haig Thomas to the stage this summer in all-female music hall style production Rhondda Rips It Up!

Rhondda Rips It Up! is unlike anything previously presented by WNO. Performed in a classic music hall style, with original songs inspired by the suffragette slogans, this tongue-in-cheek production takes audiences on a whirlwind tour of the inspiring activist’s mission.

Lady Rhondda, as she was known, was a suffragette who ran the Newport branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) – the militant organisation campaigning for women’s suffrage in the UK founded and run by Emmeline Pankhurst.

She was a pioneering business woman and sat on the boards of several international companies in the 1920s. The founder and editor of the influential feminist magazine Time and Tide, she campaigned tirelessly for equal rights for women. She was the first female Honorary President of The Institute of Directors and was posthumously responsible for the admission of women to the House of Lords.

With 2018 the 100th anniversary of the first wave of women being legally allowed to vote, WNO’s fascinating depiction of Lady Rhondda’s life has been created by an all-female team with original score composed by Elena Langer, who worked on WNO’s premiere of Figaro Gets A Divorce and libretto by Emma Jenkins who co-wrote the libretto for WNO’s 2016 world premiere In Parenthesis and it will be performed entirely by women.

Madeleine Shaw plays Lady Rhondda, and soprano Lesley Garrett will guide the audience through the story as Master of Ceremonies in a character based on real-life pioneering music hall entertainer Vesta Tilley, a female compere impersonating a male. Lesley returns to WNO after delighting audiences in The Merry Widow and in 2015’s spectacular Chorus!.

Lesley and the members of WNO’s Ladies Chorus will perform all the other roles – including male politicians Winston Churchill, Herbert Henry Asquith, and David Lloyd George as well as Margaret’s father David Alfred Thomas, first Viscount Rhondda, and her husband Sir Humphrey Mackworth (whom she divorced before entering a relationship with journalist Helen Archdale).

WNO’s Artistic Director David Pountney said: ‘We are proud to bring the life of one of Wales’s unsung heroines of the suffragette movement to the stage. Lady Rhondda was instrumental in the fight for women’s equality across 40 years of passionate campaigning and it is important that her life is celebrated. Our all-female team of talented performers and creatives have worked closely with Margaret’s biographer Angela John, and taken inspiration from songs and speeches of the suffragettes as well as the sounds of the Edwardian music hall, to create a highly original and bold new work which is a real departure for WNO.’

Rhondda Rips it Up! Will be on stage at Malvern Theatres on Tuesday, June 26. To book, call the box office on 01684 892277 or visit malvern-theatres.co.uk