Sam Heughan's first theatre company honours campaign to allow women to go to university with new show

Outlander star Sam Heughan's former theatre company in Edinburgh is to create a musical theatre show inspired by the 19th century campaign in the city which led to women being allowed to go to university across the UK.

The Royal Lyceum Theatre is to launch a hunt for new young stars for “Seven Against Edinburgh, ” which will see a group of teenage girls discover the story of the inspirational women who took on the academic and medical establishment more than 150 years ago.

The Lyceum’s youth theatre company, which Heughan joined as a teenager growing up in the city, will be holding open auditions for the show.

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Billed as a story with “female tenacity and friendship at its heart,” the Lyceum says it will also draw comparisons between Victorian and modern-day Edinburgh.

Seven modern-day medical students - Violet Borkowska, Hikari Sakurai, Megan Cameron, Simran Piya, Caitlin Taylor, Izzie Dighero and Mei Yen Liew - collected posthumous degrees on behalf of the Edinburgh Seven last year in 2019. Picture: Callum Bennets

Seven Against Edinburgh is expected to recall the impact of the Edinburgh Seven campaign instigated by Sophia Jex-Blake after she was was accepted to study medicine at Edinburgh University, but had the decision overturned because it was deemed too difficult and expensive to accommodate a single female student.

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She persuaded the editor of The Scotsman at the time, Alexander Russel to run an appeal by Jex-Blake which resulted in six other women – Isabel Thorne, Edith Pechey, Matilda Chaplin, Helen Evans, Mary Anderson and Emily Bovell – coming forward and the newspaper would go on to support their campaign.

They were allowed to matriculate in 1869 but faced increasing sexism, bureaucracy, hostility and legal challenges which prevented them graduating, although their efforts were credited with leading to women winning the right to go to university across Britain.

The Royal Lyceum's youth theatre company is looking for stars for a new show inspired by the 19th century Edinburgh Seven campaign to allow women to study medicine in the city.

The Edinburgh Seven’s campaign was was largely forgotten about until the students were honoured with a plaque at the medical school in 2015 and were awarded posthumous degrees in 2019.

The 12 roles involved in the production are aimed at young people who will be aged between 16 and 21 year-olds at the start of next year who have not had any professional acting training and have little or no experience of performing on stage.

Nine “female identifying” actor-musicians are being sought as well as three young people to work as creatives on the show, which will be in rehersals fro January and is hoped to be staged in April.

An official announcement from the Lyceum said: “Those auditioning for the actor-musician roles must be confident singing and may be able to play an instrument, but otherwise

Edinburgh University unveiled a new work of art honouring the Edinburgh Seven in its anatomy department earlier this year.
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applicants of all abilities and experience are encouraged to apply.

"There will be an emphasis on professional development, with each role designed to provide young people with rich learning

opportunities, training, and insight into the creative process, and the opportunities are crafted for those young people not attending drama schools.”

Becky Hope, writer and director of the show, said: “Seven Against Edinburgh has young people at its heart.

Sam Heughan joined the Royal Lyceum Theatre's youth company and also worked as a usher at the venue.

"We want to create a production full of energy and revolution, putting female tenacity and friendship at the centre.

‘It will provide the unique opportunity to train in live theatre performance (or as a creative team).

"You do not have to have prior experience to be a part of this show, just a passion for telling big stories.

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"You will be part of shaping the production and its performance in the Lyceum's exciting studio space.”

LYT members on stage in a previous production.



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