The Irish Mail on Sunday



(New Theatre until May 31) is a one-woman show about a remarkable woman, given a captivatin­g performanc­e by Alison Skilbeck. Eleanor Roosevelt was controvers­ial, before and after becoming the president’s wife, for her life-long political and social activitism on behalf of women and humanitari­an causes. She supported black civil rights when it was both unfashiona­ble and dangerous.

She was tall, described by her own father as ‘gawky, toothy and plain’, and had none of the usual First Lady glamour. But that never stopped her crusading, which might account for her five children having a total of 19 marriages between them.

The play is set during her wartime visit to London, meeting royalty, politician­s and workers, always expressing her opinions forcefully. It includes flashbacks to her childhood, her domineerin­g mother-inlaw, her inspiring teacher while a student in England, and her determinat­ion not to waste her life, having seen the effects of alcohol on her family.

And it covers the emotional support she received in her relationsh­ip with the journalist Lorena Hickok that she never had in her marriage.

Skilbeck, using Eleanor’s own writings, softens the austere image with humour and the whole show is meticulous­ly produced and directed, with minimum props and clever use of sound and lighting.

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Alison Skilbeck as
Eleanor Roosevelt
stAr rolE: Alison Skilbeck as Eleanor Roosevelt

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