Wailing Wenches and Waisted Women
Upon watching Oliver! at the Curve theatre in Leicester, I couldn’t help but think just how relevant it is to 21st century. Set against a backdrop of (mostly) working-class Victorian Britain, where society mostly was geared toward favouring Upper-Class, White, British, Males, this play really highlighted the subjugation of Woman under Man.
Oliver meets several female characters, who, really highlight the unappealing lives of Women in the 19th Century.
Nancy, a (suggested) prostitute and abused wife.= Not only does she use her sex appeal to ‘Oom Pa Pa!!’ her way through the raucous, crowded pub, and entertain the audience, she is married to the thug, Bill Sykes. If ‘Bullseye’ is Bills’ dog, then I’m afraid to say this, but Nancy really is, Bill Sykes’ ‘bitch.’ Not only does she have to chase up Fagin for the money he owes her, but she also acts as a spy when Oliver is being questioned in court, before finally being reduced to a kidnapper in order to keep Oliver’s mouth well and truly shut about the crooks he’s been living with.
And what happens to her when she speaks up for Oliver? When she speaks up for what’s right? At one point in the story, Bill attempts to give Oliver a ‘good beating’ on the backside, when Nancy intervenes and declares that Bill would have to go over her ‘dead body’ before he lay a finger on Oliver. She gets beaten up by Bill. Because how dare a WIFE, how dare a WOMAN, speak up for what she believes in? Also, not only is she speaking up for what she believes in, she is speaking up for a child. Child and Woman are on the same level in Victorian society. UNDER MAN’S RULE. So she suffers another beating. Before pathetically singing ‘As Long as He Needs Me.’ (But I suppose, in the context of Victorian society, she probably thought: Beaten up, but clothed, fed and sheltered? Or Free myself from this Douchebag, but then I’ll have to sell myself on the street?) Circumstances wouldn’t have favoured a divorced lady.
In some sort of ‘Redemption’ effort for kidnapping Oliver from his sweet home and pulling him down to a life of crime, she contacts Grandfather dearest and arranges to have Oliver sent back to him. (What the hell Nancy? Ya should have thought of that in the first place??!) Anyway, when Bill Sykes cottons on as to what’s happening, he stalks Nancy to London Bridge, before beating her to death for her ‘betrayal.’ Her ‘betrayal’ basically meaning that she decided to use her own brains and do the right thing instead of the sin Bill was suffocating her with.
The message is clear. Stick to the hierarchy or die. Listen to the patriarchy, or die. And don’t you dare try moving out of your given place in society, or else you shall suffer.
Yes, this play was set in the 19th century, but it brings home so many of the problems that are still relevant in the 21st so-called ‘advanced’ society. It’s sad that even today; thousands of women still suffer abuse, are sexually exploited, and can fall victim to abusive partners so easily. To be honest, we’re still living in the Victorian society, just with modernised buildings and clothes, because the victimisation of Women is still present.
Remember! Help is ALWAYS at hand. Contact your local Community Centre, Police Station or someone you can trust and speak to them. The longer you leave it, the harder it’ll get to ‘unstick’ yourself. You are a precious, amazing beautiful creature, and you deserve nothing less than love, safety, and respect from a Man.