1904. A London sweatshop.
Exhausted dressmakers toil through the night to meet the demands of affluent customers . . .
First performed in 1904, this rarely-revived, impassioned political drama remains acutely relevant in today's world of cheap imports and fast fashion.
The play tells the story of a group of dressmakers and their wealthy customers. The seamstresses are racing to finish the elaborate costumes that have been ordered for a ball taking place that very night. The aristocrats are preoccupied with their own concerns of marriage engagements, social climbing, and adultery, and have no idea of the effect their orders have on the workers struggling to fulfil their demands.
The business owner, Madame Stephanie – a Stepney-born cockney with an assumed Parisian accent – drives her shattered employees to the point of collapse. Hope arrives in the form of a factory official come to investigate the illegal situation, but the inspector is powerless unless these women dare to rebel and tell the truth about their working conditions. And if they speak out, will anything change?
Lucy Kerbel writes, in her book 100 Great Plays For Women:
"In our age of increasing reliance on cheap imported goods from abroad, it's not difficult to identify the sagacious political comment that Warp and Woof continues to make. While our wardrobes are unlikely to be stuffed with gowns hand-stitched by women working in the back rooms of London, how many of us who shop on the high street can be confident that the clothes we wear aren't made in establishments similar to those Lyttelton was writing about more than a hundred years ago. . . It is this question of responsibility, and particularly on the part of the wealthy and the empowered in society, that means Warp and Woof continues to resonate sharply and forcefully down the years."