Essex

Stilettos to be burned in 'Essex Girl' play challenging stereotypes

Stiletto Beach Image copyright Mark Sepple
Image caption The show is a "love letter to Southend" and celebrates Essex girls

Pairs of donated stilettos will be "theatrically burned" in a series of plays challenging the Essex Girl stereotype.

Theatre staff said they were inundated after appealing for shoes to form part of the storyline for Stiletto Beach.

It is one of several locally-written shows being staged in Hornchurch to "champion positive notions" of Essex.

Playwright Sadie Hasler said the story was her "love letter to Southend".

Image copyright Queen's Theatre
Image caption Some of the hundreds of stiletto heels that were donated for use in the play

Ms Hasler, who grew up in Southend, said the play was "rooted in the town", and will illustrate "the frustrations of living here and not escaping to London".

"I asked myself - how do you tackle such a beast and also do the whole of Essex justice? Stick to what you know," she said.

"For me personally, Southend, and the changing landscape of the sea, provide daily inspiration and comfort."

Image copyright Simon Fowler
Image caption Actress and playwright Sadie Hasler says the play is "rooted" in her hometown

The pejorative "Essex Girl" phrase is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a young woman "characterised as unintelligent, promiscuous and materialistic".

Stiletto Beach follows the fortunes of two young women in Southend and the effect of a newcomer to the area - a journalist who writes a derogatory piece about Essex Girls.

The season also includes So Here We Are, a play penned by Poldark actor Luke Norris, which focuses on the experiences of a group of Essex boys.

Miranda Wilkie, marketing officer at Queen's Theatre, said more than 100 pairs of stilettos were donated to the theatre after the appeal.

The shoes will be "tied together, strung up like a curtain and theatrically burned" in the performance, she said.

"Both plays are set in Southend and touch not just on its frustrations as a locale, but also the real love for it as a hometown," she added.

"Essex needs celebrating. This is about the women and men of Essex, their identity - and the hardships they face."

Image copyright Queen's Theatre
Image caption Both plays are based in Southend and challenge the Essex Girls and Boys stereotype

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