Lady Eleanor Butler (1739-1829) & Sarah Ponsonby( 1755-1831) are well known in North Wales as the famous Ladies Of Llangollen. Famous just as much today as they were in the 1800s, these two recluse eccentrics moved to Wales from Ireland to set up a home together at Plas Newydd in what was always presumed ( but never really proved) in a lesbian relationship.
Last night I went to see the premier of Celebrated Virgins, a new play by Kati Elgin Salt . From the get go the play informed the audience that it was going to redress history by telling the true story of Eleanor and Sarah from their privileged Irish start to their goldfish bowl existence in the picturesque Welsh town of Llangollen .
I will try not to give much away but the play has two very differently paced halves. The first is set in Ireland and effectively sets up the meeting of these two amazing women where as the second , and lighter half looks at their lives in Wales.
There is much marching around the stage by the cast , which is a bit distracting , but the love affair between Eleanor ( Victoria John) and Sarah( Heather Agyepong is rather movingly told to be honest but I must admit Emma Pallant steals the show with her duel handed role as Sarah’s adopted mother and as the Ladies’ foul mouthed personal Irish maid who kept the two women afloat financially when she died in service .Her asides to the audience provided the much needed humour of the play.
It’s such a privilege seeing the opening night of a new play.
I’ve already twitted my thanks to the actors involved and I hope it does well.
Two old broads with tiny feet