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By Ellen Brammar
Series: NHB Modern Plays
Imprint: Nick Hern Books
Paperback : 9781839042324, 96 pages, June 2023


It's 1874, and Elizabeth Thompson stuns the artistic establishment with her painting The Roll Call. Five years later, she falls two votes short of becoming the first woman elected to the Royal Academy.

In between, she shoulders the hopes and dreams of female artists across the country, while fighting for her place at a table full of top hats, neckties and mutton chop beards.

A thrilling collision of music hall, cabaret and drag king swagger, Modest tells the true story of a pioneering megastar of the Victorian art scene. Written by Ellen Brammar and with music by Rachel Barnes, it was first produced in 2023 by Middle Child in collaboration with Milk Presents at Hull Truck Theatre before touring.


'A quick-witted, bawdy, diamond in the rough'

- Time Out

'Exceptional... a potent mix of drag, searing comedy, indignant fury and tenderness... a raucous cabaret [that] is a forensic evisceration of staid "respectability"'

- The Stage

'Fast-paced and funny... a story that deserves to be told'

- British Theatre Guide

'A play that delivers punch after punch... hugely pleasurable watch'

- WhatsOnStage

'A rollicking piece of gig theatre... a show that bubbles over with charisma... it has a fabulous drag king aesthetic and fringe energy, throwing in plenty of raunchiness, satire and poppy interludes... Brammar's script shines in its humour... it never fails to amuse'

- Guardian

'Energetic and empowering'

- Theatre Weekly