Drawing: Bryony Hannah in The Children’s Hour at The Comedy Theatre

Bryony Hannah

The Children’s Hour was Lillian Hellman’s first hit play. It premiered in 1934 at Maxine Elliot’s Theatre on Broadway. At the time, any mention of homosexuality on stage was illegal in New York State, but the play was such a success and widely praised that the subject matter was overlooked. A revival was staged at London’s Comedy Theatre in early 2011, directed by Ian Rickson.

It starred Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss as two school mistresses of an all girls boarding school in the 1930s. Their reputations and careers are thrown into chaos when disgruntled student Mary Tilford, played by Bryony Hannah, wrongly claims the two women are having a lesbian affair. It also featured Ellen Burstyn as the evil doting grandmother.

Hannah won rave reviews and an Olivier nomination for Best Supporting Actress. The Times described her as, “a diminutive scowling unknown in a rumpled gymslip who acts the stars right off the stage… the first act is hers and boy does she punch above her weight.”

The Express said her performance, “borders on the brilliant.”

TV viewers will know her as the meek Cynthia Miller in Call the Midwife, and she is currently back on stage at the National in Nick Payne’s Blurred Lines until 22 February.

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Drawing: Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss in The Children’s Hour

Knightly+Moss001

Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss signed this sketch for me at the Comedy Theatre stage door after a performance of The Children’s Hour on the 30th March 2011.