The Matchgirls

Full-Length Musical, Drama  /  13f, 5m

Bill Owen, Tony Russell

The Matchgirls (libretto)
Book and lyrics by Bill Owen
Music by Tony Russell

Based on fact, this musical tells the story of a strike by the girls in a match factory in 1888, when unions were still groping for recognition and mass withdrawal of labour was an almost unheard-of strategy in industrial relations.

  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    13f, 5m
  • SubGenre
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    Adult, Senior, Teen (Age 14 - 18)
Licence details
  • Licensing fees and rental materials quoted upon application.



The match-cutters finally rebel against working conditions in which young girls had their jaws rotted away by phosphorus, and discipline was maintained by a system of crippling fines and sanctions. A grim episode, perhaps, but not many minutes of the play are allowed to pass before the natural ebullience of the traditional Cockney sparrow helps to create sparkling entertainment which warms the heart, yet retains the essential drama of the central theme. The incongruously named "Hope Court" is the setting for much of the play, for it is there the workers live in shabby tenements. Desperation turns Kate, the tenement girl, into a reckless strike-leader, and complicates her courtship with Joe, a docker. Annie Besant, the liberal reformer, champions the strikers' cause and plays a vital part in bringing about their ultimate victory over what was then a callous management.

The Scenes
Act I The cutting-room at the match factory. Hope Court. Beside Gladstone's statue. The Freethought Bookshop. On the way to the House of Commons
Act II Hope Court. The Bookshop. By the river. Outside the Company's Head Office. Charrington's Brewery

Within a permanent basic full-stage set (Hope Court), the other scenes are formed either with simple insets, by traveller curtains or drop cloths, or by making minor alterations to the basic set/

Cast Attributes

The show can be expanded to some extent, although in the original production every member of the company was an individual character, and named. Additional matchgirls can be added more or less at will.

  • Time Period 19th Century
  • Cautions
    • No Special Cautions



8 Classic British Musicals to Perform
by Cathy Thomas
August 5, 2019


  • Vocal DemandsModerate
  • Orchestra SizeMedium


Music Rentals

Concord offers a full suite of resources to help you put on the show of a lifetime!
16 Piano-Vocal
1 Alto Saxophone/Clarinet
1 Tenor Saxophone/Clarinet
1 Trumpet
1 Percussion
1 Double Bass
16 Piano-Vocal



Bill Owen


Tony Russell


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