London, 1937. Maggie Hale sits in a pub and tells a curious patron about the heyday of London’s only all-women gang, the Forty Elephants, and her involvement with its queen, Diamond Annie.
Should you see it?
Margo Macdonald is a force to be reckoned with. She’s intimidating from her first moment as Maggie Hale, staring you down in an impeccably tailored suit, a cigarette hanging off her lip. Macdonald is a powerhouse, gripping you from the beginning with a story of crime, violence, lust and so much more.
Evidence of the Forty Elephants was only rediscovered in 2010, and what a good thing it was; it would have been a shame to let a story this good go to waste. The women of the gang were thieves, experts at department store robberies. At first, being in the Elephants does sound fun – Maggie and her fellow gang members steal, throw parties, commit crimes just for fun. But The Elephant Girls’ message is clear; gangs are not all fun and games, and eventually someone takes it too far.
Macdonald does an amazing thing here; she takes a forgotten historical narrative and makes it even more amazing with a compelling fictional character. Her Maggie Hale is a tough, dangerous woman, hardened by a life of crime and years in prison. The rest of the Forty Elephants are characters in their own right, especially their leader, Alice Diamond.
Everything from Macdonald’s accent to Mary Ellis’s direction to the writing gives Maggie Hale’s story life. Macdonald gets under her skin in an amazing way, effectively showing the vulnerability beneath Maggie’s thorny demeanor. This was truly a performance that made me forget where I was. For that hour, I was in a pub in London, while a terrifying and fascinating woman told me an unforgettable life story.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think! Were you caught up in Maggie’s narrative? Did you already know about the Forty Elephants? Join the discussion in the comments below.