Glamour Girl

Cora PearlThe true story of ‘Cora Pearl,’ a provocative and scandalous character who escaped dull 1850s London for Gay Paris, becoming the most celebrated and influential courtesan of the second French Empire.

Set during the 1850s and 1860s this drama explores her rise to fame and the rather modern challenges she faced. From gossip and outrage in the press to riots in the streets and moralistic politicians, Cora’s quick wit, ingenuity (and some other talents), made her the epitome of glamour!

Based on her own memoirs, this is an exciting collaboration between Distraction Theatre’s Rebecca Gadsby, and Ivan Wilkinson, writer of 2014s national tour of ‘Kidnapped.’ Glamour Girl is a sexy, challenging, fast paced adventure, from the back streets of London to the palaces of royalty.

About Cora

Cora PearlNot many people have heard of Cora Pearl, but in her heyday
she was adored and hated by many. The epitome of glamour and scandal, however, this is not the whole story. Cora was a liberal hedonistic woman, who was very open about her particular talents, but she was also a true pioneer and her contribution to society was perhaps ignored due to the open way that she made her fortune.

Cora is credited with popularising certain trends like casual make up and dying hair! (Something she was mocked for) but she lived at a turbulent time both politically and militaristically and she was a genuinely brave person, risking her life by staying in Paris during the siege of 1870, and spending her personal fortune in caring for the people of Paris.

Never someone to back down she was also known for her fiery (sometimes violent) temper and there are several documented cases of her tempestuous nature, quite often ending up in court! She was clearly very charismatic, inspiring such devotion that songs were written and duels fought over her. Cora herself, would never allow any man to have any control over her or her fortune. She was an independent lady, and woe betide anyone who thought otherwise.

Her rise from genteel poverty in London to the top of Parisian society was mainly due to her remarkable character. Determined and single minded, she also had a good head for business, a trait often scoffed at in women at the time, and this combined with a lust for adventure and excitement, led her into many different situations, (including a brief career as an actress) and caused her to be a fascinating eye witness to some of the most significant events in European history.

Why is her story significant?

Although set in a particular time frame (1854-1872) the issues and challenges presented to Cora are stunningly modern. Prejudice, ridicule, media intrusion, abuse and assault are all things she had to deal with. In her attitude and outlook she was very much a modern woman and her story has a resonance with modern society.

Cora Pearl as 'Cupidon’ in ‘Orphée aux Enfers’ 1867
Cora Pearl as ‘Cupidon’ in ‘Orphée aux Enfers’ 1867

Celebrity

Cora’s story is a forerunner to today’s celebrity culture. Famous for who she is, and constantly changing her look to court attention, she developed a love/hate relationship with the media. The newspapers made her a famous name and her publicity stunts kept her in the public eye, though she had her detractors. The fickle nature of public opinion wavered between adoration and revulsion and she caused a riot when she ventured onstage. Her role of ‘Cupidon’ causing outrage, but selling out the theatre, prompting one reporter to say;
How much further could the love of the realistic go?”
Royal Leamington Spa Courier 9th Feb 1867

Sex Work

In today’s parlance she would be termed an ‘escort’ or ‘sex worker’ a subject which has had much debate in modern media. The British Government’s recent clampdown on censorship laws has Cora Pearlcaused a backlash from British sex workers who wish to be recognised as a legitimate workers group with rights and a union. Cora herself had running battles with a conservative government, keen to be seen as taking a hard stance against ‘licentious’ behavior. A struggle she ultimately lost.

Incredibly, the subject of a liberal woman, open about her sexuality, is still somewhat controversial in the 21st century. However, with Cora, her openness about sex, while an important part of her personality, is far from the whole story, as evidenced by her selfless behaviour during the siege of Paris.

Regardless of whether you approve or not of her choice of profession, it was a conscious choice of hers, and a career which she loved. This idea, that a woman can make that decision and be happy with it, is an important point which all too often is dismissed from any rational debate on sex work.

Our Production

Katy Helps as Cora Pearl

This is an ambitious project and to that end, we have put together a team to help achieve our goals. On the production side it will be a female led team, we believe that this is important as we wish portray female perspectives on female issues, as well as provide work for women in an industry where they are still under represented.

Producer: Beth Miller

Beth is passionate about theatre, and has been the main creative force behind a series of tours in Italy, showcasing British theatre styles and genres. One of the founders of Quill and Inkling, Beth’s drive and artistic vision will be invaluable to the project.

Director: Rebecca Gadsby

Rebecca is co-founder of ‘Distraction Theatre’ and is fast becoming known as an exciting director in her own right. Popular with her casts and critics, she has an attention to detail which has led her to be described within the industry as ‘one of the best directors in the country for period drama.’ Making her an ideal choice to direct Glamour Girl.

Jayne Eyre: “Gadsby’s direction was pleasingly unfussy; this was an imaginative and vigorous adaptation, and a credible retelling of a ferociously original tale. ”  DCH
Once Upon a Christmas Day: “…truly magnificent…as spectacular as it is hilarious, and which must be seen to be believed.” Remotegote
Wuthering Heights: “…a rugged and fearless production…immersing us in a desperate melodrama ” The Stage
Twelfth Night: “…the audience were whisked away into a fantasy world of music, trickery, mistaken identity and love…the physical comedy element
was exaggerated to great effect.” Birmingham Mail

Cast from left: Canavan Connolly, Evelyn Shaw and Ciaran Lonsdale.

Writer: Ivan Wilkinson

Ivan is co-founder of Quill and Inkling, and has enjoyed recent success with his writing, including his adaptation of ‘Kidnapped’ which toured nationally in 2014.

About Kidnapped: ‘Ivan Wilkinson’s new adaptation of the classic story does not skimp on adventure and incident.’
‘A show that everyone in Scotland should see.’ – The Scotsman
‘Many sword fights and swashbuckling galore.’ –The Daily Record
‘An exciting re-telling of a classic tale that will capture the imagination of children and adults alike.’ – Kirsty Doull