PARTNERSHIP is a refreshing take on the importance of work-life balance and a celebration of the eye-opening power of love. 

“Written during the height of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States, this English playwright’s portrait of a driven businesswoman — two driven businesswomen, actually —feels boldly up-to-date.” Darryn King, The New York Times 

Kate Rolling is the ambitious owner of a small fashion boutique in Brighton. When the owner of the largest shop in town proposes a merger on favorable terms—including matrimony—Kate sees an irresistible business opportunity. “Oh, don’t worry about me,” Kate assures her friends, “I never expected anything great in the way of love.” But isn’t romance most likely when it’s least expected?

“Baker’s dialogue has a bright, lively sheen, and she illuminates with a probing intelligence the lives of women of the time, who, however successful in business, must also recognize that marriage will always be seen by the culture as the measure of a woman’s real achievement.” – Charles Isherwood, The Wall Street Journal

Elizabeth Baker’s charming comedy premiered in 1917. “One of the very few intelligent and, therefore, really interesting plays of the moment is PARTNERSHIP at the Court, by Miss Elizabeth Baker…It is the eternal battle of the spirit over the material.” wrote The Graphic.

Elizabeth Baker

By Maya Cantu

Catapulting from office typist to “one of the most widely discussed playwrights in England” (The Christian Science Monitor), Elizabeth Baker startled her contemporaries with the realist landmark Chains (1909). In this and the twelve produced plays that followed, Baker focused extraordinary attention on the lives of London’s clerks, shopgirls, and suburban strivers. Drawn in her life and work to themes of wanderlust, Baker wrote plays that incisively explore the constraints of class, gender, and social convention upon individual agency, while centralizing the ambitions and desires of working women.

Born to a family of drapers in Paddington, London on August 20, 1876, Baker (whose birth name was Gertrude) grew up amid a large step-family in the suburbs of west London. In 1883, Baker’s widowed mother, Elizabeth Reavell, remarried master draper George Robert Collett—and assumed an enterprising new role running her second husband’s business. At the age of fourteen, Baker worked as an assistant in her parents’ shop, while writing “little things” and short plays in her spare time. Soon after, she found employment as a London shorthand clerk and typist, later working in the offices of The Spectator.

Characterized in the press as an untrained “girl-novice,” the thirty-two-year old Baker created a theatrical sensation with her first full-length play, Chains. First presented by the Play Actors in 1909, and then by Charles Frohman at the Duke of York’s Theatre, Chains focused on lower-middle-class characters longing to break away from routines of work and marriage, with clerk Charlie Wilson looking to new horizons in Australia. Baker earned praise for her “keenness of observation, her powers of drawing characters from the life, and her gift of writing dialogue that is natural and unforced” (The Field). The Bystander called Chains “one of the greatest plays that has been produced in this country for many a long day.” Baker, meanwhile, continued in her work as a typist.

Baker followed Chains with a versatile range of challenging and original plays that premiered on the stages of England’s repertory theaters, as well as in the West End. These included Edith (1912), a one-act feminist comedy for the Women Writer’s Suffrage League; the comic drama The Price of Thomas Scott (1913, Gaiety Theatre, Manchester); and her scintillating business-world comedy Partnership (1917, Court Theatre). Long independent, Baker also found mid-life romance with James Edmund Allaway, a widower who worked in the upholstery trade; she married him in 1915, at the age of forty. In 1922—echoing themes in Chains—the pair emigrated for two years to the Cook Islands; and at Australia’s Sydney Repertory Society, Baker premiered an early version of her controversial satire Bert’s Girl (produced in 1927 at the Court Theatre).

Despite receiving glowing reviews for the tragicomic Penelope Forgives (1930), Baker faced declining production prospects in the early 1930s. Her career as a professional playwright apparently concluded with the one-act One of the Spicers (1932). Following the death of her husband in 1941, Baker moved from her longtime family home in Bedford Park to Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, where she lived with a stepsister. Four ITV Television Playhouse adaptations of her plays appeared between 1959 and 1961. These broadcasts brought “Mrs. Gertrude Allaway, an eighty-four year old widow” (The Daily Mirror) a small measure of renewed recognition, half a century after The Guardian described Elizabeth Baker as a “widener of frontiers.” She died in Hertfordshire on March 8, 1962.


Jonathan Champion
Gina Daniels
Joshua Echebiri
Gene Gillette
Olivia Gilliatt
Sara Haider
Christiane Noll
Tom Patterson
Madeline Seidman
AhDream Smith


Sets: Alexander Woodward

Costumes: Kindall Almond

Lights: M.L. Geiger

Sound: Daniel Baker & Co.

Props: Chris Fields

Dialects & Dramaturgy: Amy Stoller

Casting: Stephanie Klapper, CSA

Production Stage Manager: Jeff Meyers
Stage Manager: Arthur Atkinson & Miriam Hyfler
Illustration: Stefano Imbert
Graphics: Hey Jude Design, Inc.
Press: David Gersten & Associates

"The 'Heart's Desire' in Elizabeth Baker's Partnership" Dr Maya Cantu

Maya Cantu is Mint’s Dramaturgical Advisor. She has been writing and speaking about our playwrights for the last ten years. Maya is the author of the biography of Elizabeth Baker that is on our website.



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