The Debutantes is a musical in progress with book and lyrics by Sam Norman and music by Eliza Randall. It is a true story about the women who worked in Bletchley Park, the central site for British cryptanalysts during World War II. Nicknamed the debutantes, or the "debs", these women (around 8,000 from a wide variety of backgrounds) played pivotal roles in the outcome of WWII.
Today, most stories told about Bletchley Park follow the male mathematicians and scientists like Alan Turing, making it seem like the lone wolf effort of a single genius. In reality, Bletchley depended on the strength and collaborative capabilities of its predominantly female workforce.
This musical follows Mavis Lever Batey, the greatest hero nobody has every heard of – a linguist who at the age of 19 joined the debs and became one of the leading codebreakers at Bletchley, instrumental in cracking the Italian Naval Enigma and Abwher Enigma machines, crucial in the success of the D-day landings in 1944.
Due to the secrecy of their work, Mavis and the other debs were unable to talk about their experiences with their parents, spouses, friends, or even children, and their efforts went unrecognized for six decades before the Bletchley Park records were released to the public. Theirs is a story that has been lost to the history books – until now.
It’s 1940, and Mavis Lever is a 19-year-old student applying to help with the British codebreaking effort. She sits down to a kind of entrance exam to test her language skills. Question 1 on the test is to turn WOMAN into POWER by substituting a letter at a time to form new words.
Performed by Amelia Gabriel, with videography by Úna O'Sullivan and instrumentals by Steven Hardy, Georgina Lloyd-Owen, Hunter Montgomery, and Eliza Randall
"Why We Won" takes place just after Mavis cracks the Italian Enigma Code and helps Admiral Cunningham win the Battle of Matapan. Her mentor, the eccentric Dilly Knox, wrote a poem to honour his all-female codebreaking team. Here we find them at a secret party celebrating the victory.
"Pan Tadeusz" comes shortly afterwards. Dilly asks who will sing the next song, and it falls to Sawicki, a young Polish codebreaker who has fled the Nazi invasion and come to Britain. He sings a folk song, the words coming from the great Polish epic Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz. Dilly translates. At the end of the song, the ghosts of the Polish Free Battalions appear in the party, accompanying them.
Performed at the Leeds Conservatoire by Rose Allen, Maisie Bircher, Beth Bullas, Charlie Clarke, Abi Cooke, Ing Kanjanamanee, Davina Manuel, Ayva McNamara, Hattie Rumsey, Jessie Stanley, and Holly Strickland-Boundy
Copyright © 2023 Eliza Randall Music - All Rights Reserved.