edithIn the evening to the Irish Theatre Group’s production of Edith, written and produced by Loretta Stanley, a member of my writers’ group (see 14 February post). This was a rich educational process for me. Like the other members of the group, I have accompanied this work since its inception. But whereas we had been critiquing dialogue on the page, now I could hear it on people’s lips. And whereas the roles had previously been neutral ciphers, now they were interpretations, by actresses and actors who brought their own understanding of what the play might be about. The biggest roles, Edith Cavell herself (as a ghost in the hospital named after her) and Eva (as an uppity young speechwriter confronting the ghastliness of breast cancer), played respectively by Liz Ross and Brontë Flecker (and played very well), were entirely believable. The stage, and the actresses, had worked their magic. I am sure Loretta sees this as a work in progress. There are things that work and things that don’t work so well, but now it is a question of adjustment and re-writing and, oh!, what a thrill it must be to see your work on the stage like this. As to Edith, she remains an enigma, in the play as in life. In our group discussions we came to the conclusion that her religion-fueled fervour to do good was the result of a displaced desire to impress her father. In his Courage, etc, Gordon Brown portrays Cavell as an all-round heroine. That was certainly the way the British propaganda machine portrayed her, jingoistically exploiting her death before a firing squad to consolidate the image of a brutal German war machine. But it can’t explain why, in her confession, Cavell gave away the names of all of the people in the clandestine network that had been smuggling allied soldiers into the neutral Netherlands (and hence back to Britain). She wasn’t tortured and the German-language confession she signed contained the names that only she could have given. ‘Patriotism,’ she declared just before her death, ‘is not enough.’ But what, then, was ‘enough’ for Edith?