“The Hooligan and the Lady”

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Wednesday, 26th January 2011

A fight scene/Edwardian-era self defence demonstration from the upcoming play The Hooligan and the Lady by Pauleen Hayes, premiering on February 24th at BATS Theatre in Wellington, New Zealand. The play is based on a book entitled The Life and Adventures of Miss Florence LeMar, the World’s Famous Ju-Jitsu Girl. Published in New Zealand in the year 1913, Life and Adventures is undoubtedly among the rarest and strangest self defence manuals ever written.

Florence “Flossie” LeMar was a pioneering advocate of jujitsu as self defence for women. She and her husband, professional wrestler and showman Joe Gardiner, toured vaudeville houses throughout New Zealand and Australia prior to and even during the First World War. Their signature act showed audiences how a Lady might fell a Hooligan in any number of ways, which are also explained and illustrated in Flossie’s book. The fight choreography shown above is verbatim from the book and was staged by Allan Henry, who also plays the Hooligan.

In addition to jujitsu lessons, Flossie’s book offered a great deal of feminist polemic and a series of very tall tales describing her hair-raising adventures as the “World’s Famous Jujitsu Girl”, taking on desperadoes including opium smugglers in Sydney, crooked gamblers in New York City and an English “lunatic” who believed he was a bear.

Though not without charm, Flossie’s stories have the sharp corners and hard edges typical of early 20th century dime novels. They are also undeniably theatrical and, in combination with an enactment of Flossie’s biography and her fierce feminism, should make for excellent edutainment on stage.

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