Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater

Meet the Ladies of Farndale Avenue!

The Farndale Ladies: An Introduction

I think it’s no accident that the Farndale Ladies, who can’t seem to perform the simplest task without falling over or breaking something, were created in Great Britain, possibly the only country in the world which discourages personal achievement as vulgar and has made cult out of the heroic failure. Coarse acting, bad movies, and botched out-takes had a loyal following in the British Isles long before the rest of the world recognized their entertainment value, and when Walter Zerlin Jr. and I decided to make our mark on the Edingburgh Festival in 1975, it was perhaps inevitable that our production of Macbeth, in which the set was accidentally erected back-to-front and an incapacitated witch was pushed round the cauldron in a wheelchair, was an award-winning sell-out, later touring the country to similar acclaim for the next year.

Anne Hering, Paul Romero, Kelly Kilgore in Farndale Avenue…

Such was the impact of the Farndale Ladies that they had to make comeback after comeback, appearing in everything from a French farce to a science-fiction adventure. The ladies’ most ambitious production, The Mikado, complete with full chorus and orchestra, completed a sold-out run in St. Albans, north of London, and in 1992.

Since the Farndale Avenue plays were first published, they’ve proved surprisingly popular all over the world. It seems that, although the Townswomen’s Guild, a group of mainly middle-class housewives who meet to learn skills and raise funds for charity, is uniquely British, there are equivalents, such as Countrywomen’s Associations and Leagues of Women, in many other countries. With only minor adaptations made to the scripts, audiences are now taking that age-old, vicarious pleasure in misfortune throughout Europe and as far afield as Saudi Arabia, Zambia, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

The cast of Farndale Avenue…

The U.S.A., however, is in mostly virgin territory for the Farndale Ladies. None of their plays have been performed frequently in the United States. You may think that no actors could possibly be as unmitigatedly awful as the Farndale Ladies. Perhaps they couldn’t. But if they did exist, they’d come from Britain.

—    David McGillivray (co-author)

What is a Housing Estate?

A housing estate is a group of buildings built together as a single development. The exact form may vary from countries to countries. Accordingly, a housing estate is usually built by a single contractor, with only a few styles of house or building design, so they tend to be uniform in appearance.

Townswomen’s Guilds

It was 1928 in the UK; at last women had won the right to vote. The Suffragettes who had battled so vigorously for this right had grabbed enough headlines to mark themselves down in the history books. Chaining themselves to railings, going on hunger strikes – these women were determined to draw attention to the campaign for full voting rights for women. But alongside them, there were many other women fighting for the vote in quieter, constitutional ways – these were the Suffragists. With a new found freedom, these women led by Eva Hubback and Margery Corbett Ashby saw the need to create an organization aimed at ordinary women living in the nation’s towns and cities; an idea that led to the Townswomen’s Guilds movement.

Today, Townswomen’s Guilds remains one of Britain’s leading women’s groups. With a 40,000 strong national membership, the organization prides itself in the involvement with radical local, national and global concerns. Members meet regularly to develop new skills, exchange ideas, discuss topical issues and organize charitable events nationwide.

Kelly Kilgore and Anne Hering in Farndale Avenue

More importantly, Townswomen’s Guilds provides the opportunity for women everywhere to belong to an organization within which members offer support, companionship and encouragement for women to honor their past and realize their future.

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