New production to explore the life of queer British power boat-racer Joe Carstairs, known for being the ‘fastest woman on water’

Graham Robson May 16, 2024

StoneCrabs Theatre is to present Joe Carstairs, an exploration of the power boat-racer, war hero and one of 20th century’s boldest queer figures, during Omnibus Theatre’s 96 Festival in London in June.

Exploring the life of a queer British power boat-racer known for being the ‘fastest woman on water’, Joe Carstairs is a new drama set across two timelines, the 1920s and the 2020s, to delve into gender, identity and social constructs that, over a century later, the world is still determined to conform to.

Fusing original live music, movement and storytelling, the show reflects on Joe Carstairs as a problematic queer icon. An openly gay war hero who served with the American Red Cross in the First World War, Joe was an heiress to an oil fortune whose wealthy status afforded her freedoms that many did not have at the time.

When Hik, a queer Gen Z playwright learns about the life of this rebellious force, they join with strong-willed Tee at a writing workshop to craft a play about Carstairs, and can’t help but notice the parallels with their own identities and clashes with societal norms.

Rhiannon Bell as Joe Carstairs and Sarah Carvalho as Hik. Photo by Henri T

Co-writer and performer Krysia Mansfield said: “In drawing from Joe’s striking self-determination, we hope to bring people closer to their own inner strength in being true to themselves and finding connection and community no matter the social or political climate.

“Showcasing this brand-new production as a co-headliner in Omnibus Theatre’s 96 Festival is such a fantastic opportunity to educate people on a queer icon who many may not know and one that’s a huge part of Isle of Wight‘s history, StoneCrabs Theatre’s home.”

Written by Krysia Mansfield and Franko Figueiredo – and directed by Selwin Hulme-Teague and Robyn Lexi – the musical score combines contemporary songs and original songs with lyrics by Krysia Mansfield and Franko Figueiredo, played live by actor-musos on stage.

StoneCrabs Theatre presents Joe Carstairs at Omnibus Theatre, 1 Clapham Common North Side, London, SW4 0LH from 4 – 22 June 2024, tickets here.