Theatre / Mrs Hawking

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From Mrs. Hawking part II: Vivat Regina at Arisia 2017. From left to right: featuring Circe Rowan as Mary, Joye Thaller as Mrs. Braun, Cari Keebaugh as Mrs. Hawking, and Jeremiah O'Sullivan as Nathaniel

Mrs. Fairmont: But I had heard...something that women whispered of...that when a lady finds herself in a predicament that she cannot resolve alone...there is someone outside the usual workings of society, who can take extraordinary action to help.
Mrs. Hawking: And that is where I come in.
Mrs. Hawkingnote 

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts is the title of the play series, and the first installment thereof, about a Victorian society widow who secretly acts as an agent of justice for otherwise helpless women in London. A mixture of Batman and Sherlock Holmes, the lead character Victoria Hawking is an intense, brooding figure equal parts covert operative, warrior, and detective. Though a powerful force for good to those who have nowhere else to turn, her rage and bitterness toward men and society in general threaten to consume her. She is balanced, however, by her housemaid and eventual assistant Mary Stone, whose world is widened exponentially when she asks to help with Mrs. Hawking's crusade for justice. Together, these two women strengthen and support one another, even as they clash over their differing outlooks and experiences of the world. Eventually they are joined by Nathaniel Hawking, Mrs. Hawking's gentleman nephew, whose original shock at learning of his aunt's work gives way to a fascination that makes him reevaluate his entire worldview in order to be of help to them.

Currently, there are four completed plays in the series. The first is Mrs. Hawking, the second Vivat Regina, the third Base Instruments, and the fourth Gilded Cages. The first three can be read in full on the official website, while the fourth's release is being held until the debut performance at Arisia 2018. The plays have seen several staged readings, while Mrs. Hawking's original performance occurred as part of the programming of the science fiction and fantasy convention Arisia 2015. Vivat Regina premiered at Arisia 2016, while Base Instruments first went up at Arisia 2017. Gilded Cages will premiere as part of Arisia 2018.

The official website for the series is Mrs. Hawking--Lady's Champion of London.

The first play can be seen on Vimeo here, while the second can be seen here and the third here.

It can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter.


Tropes:

  • Age Gap Romance: In part four, Gilded Cages, we see Reginald Hawking falls for Victoria Stanton when he is 31 and she is 19. Though not an unusual age gap in the Victorian period, it is made clear that he is an adult and she is still a childó one of many subtle indicators that the match is a bad one.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Subverted with Arthur. He's just about the sweetest, most straightforward guy you could imagine, and he's presented as a romantic and attractive figure for Mary.
  • All There in the Manual: It's never actually mentioned what Nathaniel does for a living, besides a brief self-identification as a "finance man" in Vivat Regina. It takes reading the Word of God on the official website to know that he works for his family's venture capital firm.
  • Amicable Exes: It is revealed in Base Instruments that Nathaniel's wife Clara and his brother Justin have some sort of romantic history. They have both moved on from it, and Justin clearly wishes his brother and sister-in-law well, though they do still tease one another.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Reginald Hawking, in part four, Gilded Cages. "My God, Victoria. Don't you know?" Poor bastard.
  • The Apprentice: In the second installment Vivat Regina, Mrs. Hawking explicitly tells Mary she wants to make the girl her protege and teach her the ways of being a society avenger, in hopes that one day Mary will carry on in her place.
  • Arranged Marriage: In part one, Mrs. Hawking, Mrs. Hawking declares that her father "sold her like a sheep" to her husband the Colonel. In part four: Gilded Cages, it's revealed that her father, Governor Stanton, agreed to spare a starving village in Singapore from some oppressive policies if she consented to the wedding.
  • Asexuality: Victoria Hawking is, according to Word of God, an aromantic asexual. This is in direction opposition to how she was obliged to get married.
  • Beauty, Brains and Brawn: Loosely, Nathaniel, Mrs. Hawking, and Mary, respectively. Nathaniel uses his charm and good looks to act as faceman, Mrs. Hawking is the mastermind of the operation, and Mary does the hard physical work as well as swings a fireplace poker as her weapon of choice.
    • A slight subversion as the "beauty" is the one man on the team.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: In part four, Gilded Cages, subverted by the First Kiss between Victoria and Reginald. It has all the trappings of one, but it's all wrong as Victoria has no romantic feelings for him.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: At the conclusion of the third installment Base Instruments, they catch the murderer Yulia Sherba by tricking her into think Justin Hawking wants to leave the country with her, thus luring her to meet them with the immigration papers that prove she killed Raisa Sergeyeva in hand.
  • Bound and Gagged: At the end of Gilded Cages, Mary and Nathaniel are captured by Frost's henchman and dragged in with their hands tied.
  • The Cassandra: In Gilded Cages, Elizabeth is always warning Victoria about the consequences of her reckless actions. She's always right, but still everyone ignores her. This constantly being ignored shapes Elizabeth going forward.
  • Celibate Eccentric Genius / Celibate Hero: The deductive genius titular character Victoria Hawking is, according to Word of God, an aromantic asexual.
  • Character Development:
    • Nathaniel goes from being shocked when learning of his aunt's work and trying to stop her, to becoming fascinated with it and desperately wanting to help her with it. He starts out as being very much a man of his time and place, believing in the typical ideals you'd expect of a successful middle-class Victorian man, but becomes more and more of a feminist as the story goes on
    • Mrs. Hawking is slow to change in any way, but Mary's influence helps her regain some of her lost perspective, particularly on the value of forming relationships with others.
  • Character Title: The first installment, and the series overall, "Mrs. Hawking".
  • Chekhov's Gun: In Mrs. Hawking, the appointment book is introduced as the place where Mrs. Hawking organizes her plans for her work. It returns at the end when Mary isn't sure where Mrs. Hawking might have gone and remembers the book's existence. It contains a note for her that allows her to show up to the right location to help.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Justin Hawking. It's so reliable that they end up using that fact to lay a trap for a target.
  • Code Name: Subverted. For all that Mrs. Hawking is basically a superhero whose real identity is a secret—and, in fact, has personal reasons to not feel connected to her legal name—she doesn't seem to have a different name, code or otherwise, as an alternative.
  • Creator Thumbprint:
    • Asexuality. A fascination of Roberts's. Expresses in lead character Mrs. Hawking.
      • In Gilded Cages, Mrs. Hawking tries to describe this part of herself, struggling because she has no words for it, when she explains how she didn't understand her eventual husband Reginald Hawking was falling in love with her, and how she could never return his feelings.
    • Complicated feelings about pregnancy and children. Often dead ones. Embodied in Mrs. Hawking's distaste for her pregnancy and her guilt over the child's death.
    • Pintsize Powerhouse women. In fact, Roberts has said Mrs. Hawking is generally a power fantasy for her.
    • Ballet. Mrs. Hawking has a background in ballet, and a ballet dancer is the client in the third installment Base Instruments.
      • In the fourth installment Gilded Cages, Victoria is shown practicing ballet on her own of out book as a nineteen-year-old girl growing up in Singapore. She says she had a teacher once— the wife of an officer who danced in Paris —until the woman's husband was transferred out of the colony.
    • Men with a traditionally masculine gender presentation taking on roles considered traditionally feminine. Nathaniel, despite being in most respects a conventionally-masculine man for his time and place, often performs narrative roles such as the peacemaker and the good face of their operations, which are often coded as typically feminine. Roberts even runs a Tumblr devoted to the concept.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: For Malaika in Gilded Cages, when their plan to feed her starving village fails, Victoria disappears on her, and her entire life is ruined when she is arrested for what they did. She loses all faith in being able to count on others, particular white people or those more privileged.
  • Does Not Like Men: Mrs. Hawking, due to the state of patriarchy in general and specifically from her treatment at the hands of her father.
    • Elena Zakharova, the client in Base Instruments, gives off an air of this as well.
  • Double Entendre: When Mary comments with amazement on the fact that Nathaniel and Clara fell in love through an correspondence during his short military service, Nathaniel's response is the clearly meaning-laden "Well. I write quite the letter." However, it's unclear whether this is an Unusual Euphemism for something else he does well, or if this is a reference to the now-somewhat-obscure Victorian practice of erotic letter writing.
  • Dramatic Unmask: In Gilded Cages, when Mrs. Chaudhary finally removes her hijab to reveal herself as Malaika Shah, former friend and servant of young Victoria Stanton.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Justin indulges in this multiple times throughout Base Instruments, first with Mary, then with Yulia Sherba.
    • In Gilded Cages, Mrs. Frost does this very briefly to Nathaniel.
  • Evil Colonialist: In Gilded Cages, the presence of the English in Singapore is depicted this way.
  • Evil Gloating: In part one: Mrs. Hawking, Lord Brockton starts to, though his monologue is cut short.
    • It devolves into a This Cannot Be!! when the tides turn.
    • Mrs. Frost at the end of Gilded Cages. To an epic extent.
  • Evil Nephew: Subverted. In the first installment, it seems that Nathaniel might be this to his aunt when he tries to stop Mrs. Hawking from doing her work. By the end of the play, he realizes the error of his ways and starts trying to help her instead.
  • The Face: Nathaniel's contribution to the team, as it turns out he has a talent for getting people talking and coming up with stories on the fly.
    • Mary occasionally is called upon to do this, such as when she pretended to be the niece of the viceroy of India in Mrs. Hawking, but it is primarily Nathaniel's job.
  • Family Business: The Hawking family's venture capital firm, started by Ambrose Hawking and carried on by his sons Justin and Nathaniel.
    • Mrs. Hawking herself remains independently wealthy due to inheriting her husband's stock in the company after his death.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: The plot of the third story Base Instruments is a mystery wherein the audience is provided with sufficient clues to solve it.
  • Feeling Their Age: In Base Instruments Mrs. Hawking's slow recovery from an injury is a harsh reminder of how it's tougher to do superheroing when you're forty than when you're twenty. Her preoccupation with own eventual physical decline is what pushes her to try to mold Mary in her image.
  • Flashback: About a third of installment four, Gilded Cages, takes place in Singapore where Mrs. Hawking grew up, met the Colonel, and made her very first discovery of the injustice of the world.
    • Flashback Echo: Again in Gilded Cages, a combination of Type 3 and Type 4.
      • Nathaniel's resemblance to his uncle the Colonel means the former often makes Mrs. Hawking think of the latter.
      • The failure of Mrs. Hawking's efforts in the past as detailed by the flashback is significant to how the case she's working on in the present time of part IV turns out.
  • Freudian Excuse: In this case it's the hero rather than the villain, but Mrs Hawking has harbored bitter resentment towards her father ever since, after ignoring her for most of her life, he forced her to get married whether she wanted to or not. It was a major contributing factor in her present-day inability to trust men.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Clara Hawking, though she is a lady, and Justin Hawking as well. Their scenes together are a complete battle of well-bred wits. Nathaniel also becomes more so as the stories go on.
  • The Ghost: The Colonel, due to being a Posthumous Character who still has a great deal of psychological influence over the main cast. Mrs. Hawking's late husband, the Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking, is remembered differently by everyone who knew him, as his wife resented him for roping her into a suffocating married life she never wanted while his nephew Nathaniel had a close, affectionate, near-filial relationship with him.
  • Gossipy Hens: Subverted somewhat with Clara. In Vivat Regina, it is clear that while Clara does enjoy gossip, she is a sharp, discerning, clever person, nothing like the vacuous babbling persona she puts on to scare Mrs. Hawking away.
  • Great Detective: Mrs. Hawking has a keen deductive mind, even if she may not be quite on the level of a Sherlock Holmes.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: There's an implication in part IV: Gilded Cages that Elizabeth envies Victoria, both for her advantages in life (for which the girl had no appreciation) and the devoted attentions of Captain Hawking (in which she had no interest.)
  • Happily Married: Nathaniel and Clara. Averted with Mrs. Hawking and the Colonel.
  • Heartbroken Badass: The Colonel, who devoted himself to some fairly epic military service abroad after coming to the understanding that the wife he loved couldn't stand the sight of him.
  • Heroic Safe Mode: Mrs. Hawking at the end of Gilded Cages, when her opponents Mrs. Chaudhary and Mrs. Frost reveal themselves to be her old friends Malaika and Elizabeth. Her priority is to get her and hers out of there rather than totally emotionally deal with it.
  • High Concept: What if Sherlock Holmes were a lady Batman?
  • Historical-Domain Character: In Vivat Regina, the client, Mrs. Braun, is a historical figure of the Victorian period under a false name. Though Mrs. Hawking indicates she has figured out her identity and hints at it, it is never explicitly revealed in the text. According to Word of God on the official website, she is Princess Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria.
  • I Can Still Fight!: Despite her injury in the first scene of Base Instruments and Mary and Nathaniel's concern, Mrs. Hawking insists on going about her usual business as a society avenger.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: In Gilded Cages, Reginald feels badly about his part in putting down the desperate Indian Rebellion of 1858, but accepts it as a terrible part of the duty he owes to the British Empire.
  • Incompatible Orientation: A big part of why the Hawking marriage is such a disaster is because Reginald is an alloromantic heterosexual, while Victoria is an aromantic asexual.
  • Instant Seduction: Justin certainly seems to pull one off with Yulia Sherba.
  • Jumped at the Call: When Mary learns that Mrs. Hawking is a secret Batman-style crusader for justice, she immediately begs to be allowed to help her in her work.
  • Knife Nut: Mrs. Hawking's preferred weapons are knives of all kinds, from thin sharp letter blades to throwing daggers to a plain sturdy khukri.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In Gilded Cages, when Mary comments that Nathaniel is rooting for her and Arthur's relationship, Arthur responds, "Of course he is. Who wouldn't be?" This has the double meaning for those members of the audience who may be shipping certain characters.
  • Little Old Lady Investigates: Played With in that primary investigator Mrs. Hawking is forty years old and a widow when the story begins, considered outwardly by her society to be something of a strange old lady. But she is dangerous and physically honed, as much a warrior as she is a detective.
  • Mandatory Motherhood: Mrs. Hawking has no desire for marriage or children whatsoever. But we learn in the first installment that she was at one point miserably pregnant with a baby she continually wished would just go away. When she finally bore the stillborn child, her husband was devastated and she became wracked with guilt that it was her fault it had died. To this day, she still dislikes hearing or saying the name "Gabriel", the name her husband wanted to give the boy.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Subverted in Gilded Cages. Mrs. Hawking suggests that her husband saw her this way and that she suffered greatly from his effort to box her into that role.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Most of them, really, for some value of significance or other.
    • Animal Theme Naming: Many characters of significance have bird-themed last names: the Hawking family, Arthur Swann, Clara's maiden name of Partridge.
    • Dead Guy Junior: Nathaniel's son is Reginald Prescott Hawking II, in honor of his beloved uncle the Colonel.
  • Meet Cute: In Vivat Regina, Mary and Arthur meet when, while Mary is on a stakeout for a case, she comes across him needing a spot of help subduing a ruffian. She brains the ruffian with her poker, and the two have a conversation that, while nothing overtly romantic happens in that play, definitely hints at a possible affecton developing.
    • Subverted in Gilded Cages. The first time Reginald and Victoria meet, he attempts to save her from what he perceives to be her falling off a roof, but she's so startled by his unnecessary intervention she ends up punching him in the eye.
  • The Mentor: Mrs. Hawking is this to Mary, and to a lesser extent Nathaniel. Though first she has to figure out how to actually teach.
    • In the fourth installment Gilded Cages, Elizabeth is this to young Victoria in serving as her governess and companion, specifically in matters of deduction, analysis, and strategy.
  • Mr. Smith: In Vivat Regina, "Mrs. Johanna Braun"—which translates to "Joan Brown"—is clearly a pseudonym used by the client.
  • My Greatest Failure: In Gilded Cages, it is suggested that for Mrs. Hawking this is her very first attempt at superheroing, when she tried to help her maid Malaika steal food for her starving village in Singapore. Their attempts resulted in failure, Malaika losing her job and imprisoned, and herself forced to marry the Colonel in exchange for her father providing relief to the village.
  • Ninja Maid: Though maid-of-all-work Mary is not a ninja—that's Mrs. Hawking skill set—she is very able to fight when necessary, usually with her trusty fireplace poker.
  • No Hero to His Valet: Clara Hawking serves this role to the titular character. Most people who know what Mrs. Hawking is capable of are in awe of her, including Clara's husband Nathaniel, but Clara believes that her gifts do not make up for what an unpleasant person she can be.
  • Oblivious to Love: In part IV: Gilded Cages, Victoria does not realize that Reginald is falling in love with her. She explains it many years later to Nathaniel as her own aromantic nature making it hard for her as a young person to see the signs she herself was unfamiliar with.
  • The One Guy: Nathaniel is the only man on the team.
  • Parental Neglect: In Mrs. Hawking, the titular protagonist says she preferred when she was neglected by her father, because it meant he left her to her own devices and didn't interfere with her. The first time he actually paid attention to her he forced her into a marriage she didn't want.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Mrs. Hawking fits this to a T. She is depicted as five-foot-two and a hundred and fifteen pounds of pure terrifying badass. She is an accomplished martial artist who regularly takes on opponents twice her size.
  • Princess for a Day: Mary in Mrs. Hawking when they go undercover at Lord Brockton's ball. They dress Mary in a more beautiful gown than she's ever worn before and pass her off as a fine lady in order for her to act as a diversion.
  • Red Herring: The mystery in Base Instruments has how Elena Zakharova seems to have a motive for the murder, have been perfectly positioned to commit it, and telling lies to conceal her actions.
  • Shout-Out: In Vivat Regina, the German-accented client comes to Mrs. Hawking incognito and introduces herself with "You may address me as Mrs. Johanna Braun", mirroring the way the client enters in the Sherlock Holmes story "A Scandal in Bohemia".
  • Sibling Rivalry: Though it is mostly good-natured, Nathaniel and his older brother Justin are constantly trying to get each other's goat. Justin boasts of his carefree, fun-filled life full of travel and romance, while Nathaniel is the golden boy who always has the approval of everyone else in the family.
  • Spot of Tea: A persistent motif in the series. Mrs. Hawking may not like many things, but tea does make that very short list.
    • In Mrs. Hawking when struggling to think of what use she can put Mary to when she first comes to work for her as a maid, the one thing Mrs. Hawking manages to come up with is seeing to afternoon tea.
  • Stealth Expert: The primary weapon in Mrs. Hawking's crime fighting arsenal is her stealth. She wears a black costume with a hood to pull down over her face to conceal herself in the dark. She regularly climbs into places where she cannot be detected.
  • Steam Punk: In as much as it is more fantastical than your straight-up Victorian historical fiction, as Mrs. Hawking's abilities are somewhat exaggerated beyond what a real human would be able to do.
  • The Summation: In Base Instruments, in the form of a crime scene reconstruction where Mrs. Hawking, Mary, Nathaniel, and Clara work out what happened and who did it.
  • Superhero: Mrs. Hawking's skills are at least at the peak of human ability, and she uses them to fight injustice. The roles that her allies Mary and Nathaniel play also fit into the style of superhero teams.
  • Too Clever by Half: Young Victoria, as can be seen in Gilded Cages.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Colonel Hawking, to his wife Victoria Hawking, the series protagonist.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Subverted. Nathaniel often pretends to be this, as in the club scene of the first installment Mrs. Hawking and the conversation with Lord Seacourse in Base Instruments, in order to allay the suspicions of enemies. In reality, he is not only not a twit, he's actually a rich middle-class man rather than an upper-class one.
  • Victorian London: The setting of the story.
  • Wham Line: In Mrs. Hawking, when Mrs. Hawking asserts that anyone can hide anything if they really want to, Mary's response: "You couldn't hide it from me."
  • White Man's Burden: Deconstructed in part IV: Gilded Cages, where young Victoria Stanton's attempt to ally with the struggles of her maid Malaika Shah have disastrous results.
  • Widow Woman: Subverted with Mrs. Hawking. Though her husband has passed, she is neither the tragic bereaved left alone in the world widow nor the cackling schemer who was responsible for his death. She feels freer and glad that she no longer has to deal with him, but her complicated feelings of resentment and regret make her unable to be completely at peace with his death.
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