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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Krysia Mansfield talks all things Joe Carstairs, a new drama co-headlining Omnibus' 96 Festival

We spoke to Krysia Mansfield, co-writer and performer of StoneCrabs Theatre's brand-new production of Joe Carstairs that is co-headlining Omnibus Theatre’s 96 Festival this June. Delving into their compelling life, a renowned power boat-racer known for being the ‘fastest woman on water’, who was also a war-hero and one of 20th century’s boldest queer figures, Joe Carstairs is a new drama set across two timelines, the 1920s and the 2020s, exploring themes of gender, identity, and societal norms over a century apart, and offers a thought-provoking reflection on a historical queer icon and whether times have really changed. 


Krysia Mansfield

Can you tell us a bit about the show?

Hik, a tenacious young non-binary playwright from London, grappling with their own defiant spirit, meets strong-willed Lesbian, Tee, at a writing workshop, and are presented with the opportunity to craft a play about Joe Carstairs. But they find their own identity questioned when tradition collides with progress. It seems their societal norms are not all that different from their idol’s 100 years earlier.


Can you talk to us a bit about the iconic Joe Carstairs? 

Born in Chelsea, 1900, oil heiress, Joe Carstairs emerged as a rebellious force, defying societal expectations: Being openly lesbian and male presenting, they were greatly influenced by their first girlfriend (of many!) Dolly Wilde, fellow ambulance driver in WW1, who introduced them to the Parisian soirées of Natalie Barney. Joe ran their own all female chauffeur service the X-Garage, bought an island in the Bahamas, saved stranded soldiers in WW2, even sold eggs to the Cunard Line in Southampton!


What is the one thing you want the audience to take away from this play? 

In drawing from Joe’s striking self determination, and Hik’s discovery of their own power, we hope to bring people closer to their own inner strength in being true to themselves and finding connection in relationships and in community no matter the social or political climate.


What attracted you to writing about this story? 

Apart from the fact that my girlfriend & I live in East Cowes where Joe had their very own boatyard! - it’s a curiosity that deepened the more Franko Figueiredo & I discovered about them during our R&D (research & development). Joe clearly had a real flair for the unexpected and a passion unique to their go-get-‘em attitude to life! It has also been an opportunity to give voice to our trans and non-binary community. As Tee, Hik’s girlfriend in our play says, it’s “Deliciously queer”.


Was there anything that surprised you whilst making this piece? 

The immensely inspiring reaction from the cast and directors. How we all know and feel the real need for more plays like this one. Giving voice to, and celebrating our incredible experiences that deserve to be shared.


What is your favourite line from the play? 

“Is it so outlandish to craft a society steeped in the warmth of understanding?” We hear this from Edward Carpenter during a soirée scene set in Paris, circa 1918. It feels as though this resonates for us even now in 2024.


Joe Carstairs is headlining Omnibus Theatre’s 96 Festival 4 – 22 June, more information and how to book tickets here: https://www.omnibus-clapham.org/joe-carstairs/ 

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