Show Description

Stowaway Theatre, a dynamic female-led actor-musician theatre company proudly announces its debut original show '40 Elephants,' a compelling show set in the heart of the 1920s. This captivating production is inspired by true historical stories and written by company founder Lizi Bennett. It delves into the notorious exploits of Britain's first female crime syndicate - The 40 Elephants.

In a world of glamour, violence, feisty female gangs, music, and mayhem, '40 Elephants' invites audiences to step back in time to 1927. Alice Diamond, former leader of the 40 Elephants, has just been released from prison and is ready to share the true tales of the gang's rise and fall. Witness the rules, raids, consequences and betrayals as these women, born into poverty, strive to escape their circumstances by any means necessary.

'40 Elephants' is a piece of actor-musician theatre set in a 1920s Music Hall, bringing to life the gripping stories of the 40 Elephant Gang. The narrative focuses on the rise and fall of Alice Diamond and her second in command, Maggie Hughes, exploring the struggles of women born into poverty in the early 20th century.

The show would be suitable for traditional theatre slots with a good sized staging.

Trailer – 2024 Spring Tour

Audience Development and Box Office Success

'40 Elephants' began its journey as part of the Exeter Northcott Artist Futures programme in 2022. The production underwent further development through an R&D provided by the Exeter Phoenix artist support scheme, in partnership with the Exeter Northcott Theatre and other Exeter-based venues. Stowaway Theatre then launched in 2023 after a successful Arts Council funding application to develop the show 40 Elephants.

This funding enabled a tour in February/March 2024 to Exeter Barnfield Theatre, Seaton Gateway Theatre, and Front Room Theatre in Weston-Super-Mare. During this debut tour, performances sold out with waiting lists at Front Room Theatre a week before opening, and capacity had to be increased at Exeter Barnfield Theatre to handle demand as the standard theatre set up for the space sold out weeks in advance of the performance, resulting in the performance being moved to the 280 seater main stage for it's three night run. Performances at Seaton also retained a high drive of audiences, with over 50% of tickets sold at this new venue for the company.

During this run, the company gathered audience and partner feedback along with reviews which are informing its current further development to a longer, two act performance ready for mid scale touring in 2025.

Marketing Copy

'When I have need of something, I am a lot like other people; I take it.'

Is it worth the risk when you have everything to gain and nothing to lose? What would you do?

It is 1927 and Alice Diamond, former leader of the 40 Elephants; Britain’s first female crime syndicate, has just been released from prison and is ready to entertain an audience with the true tales of the gang’s exploits.

Follow the rise and fall of Britain's most notorious girl gang; their rules, raids, consequences and betrayals, as they struggle to escape the world they were born into, gaining wealth and fame by whatever means necessary.

Feisty female gangs, music and mayhem…you better be ready for the 40 Elephants!

Running Time – 120 minutes. An interval can be added.

Age Guidance – 12+

This performance contains themes of violence, domestic violence, crime and suicide.

Target Audience

Musical theatre, panto, drama and new works audiences. College / University students. Fringe theatre-goers. New writing audiences. Audiences that enjoy thought-provoking theatre. Middle-aged audiences. Dark Comedy audiences. Late-night audiences. Stand up comedy audiences. Issue related play audiences.

Recent reviews

"40 Elephants is fabulously entertaining. The songs hit the mark, the performances shine, and the story sees a group of women grasping at controlling their own destiny. It’s a take on empowerment with the hint of sadness that makes the true stories feel real."

"There is something extremely heartening in watching a brand new theatre company take to the stage for the first time with a brand new show. Devon-based Stowaway Theatre have taken that first big step and have done so with a sharp and engaging production about a subject matter which is ripe pickings for the stage.

Keep your eyes open for Stowaway Theatre, their approach to performance is wonderfully refreshing and chock full of entertainment."

"’40 Elephants’ was a breath of fresh air, leaving the audience captivated and craving more. It was a triumph for Stowaway Theatre, and a testament to the power of creativity, innovation, and strong ensemble work."

Full show

A recording of 40 Elephants on its debut tour in Spring 2024. Please note this is for potential programmer's viewing only on an unlisted link not to be shared. The show is also being redeveloped for its next tour and extended to 120mins.


"We were delighted to have Stowaway Theatre at The Gateway Theatre with their '40 Elephants' musical show. The engaging performance by the talented actor musicians had the audience enthralled. Wonderful original songs in the style of that era were sung with beautiful harmonies, with incidental music used to seamlessly move between 'Acts'. The story was told with great humour but also had some dramatic moments. We would definitely have them back"
Ali Ransom, Theatre Programmer at Gateway Theatre Seaton

"40 Elephants is a fantastic musical performance that tells a fascinating and moving story through song and a host of live instruments. Our audience were enthralled from start to finish."
Adam Fuller - Creative Director - Front Room WSM

"Seeing Stowaway's energetic show spring to life here in Exeter was joyful and we are excited to see it flourish even further."
Martin Berry, Creative Director and Joint Chief Executive Exeter Northcott

Audience feedback

"I was highly entertained, educated and inspired. I love theatre when its value outlasts the actual performance. I’ve gone on to research the Gang and really wish I’d bought the CD as I’ve had “no-one thinks a pretty face is capable of crime” on the brain ever since!"

"So professional and funny - flawless first show!"

"Such playful, delightful storytelling with gorgeous, fun music"

"Use of the instruments to tell the story and the sheer talent of each actor - blown away"

"Slick and accomplished"

Rehearsal and performance images

Photography by Primrose Bigwood

Stowaway Theatre

Stowaway Theatre is a female led actor-musician theatre company based in Devon.

Formed in 2023 by Elisabeth Bennett, we create exciting actor-musician theatre inspired by historical true stories that have either been lost, forgotten or just haven't had the platform we think they deserve!

We are proud alumni of Rose Bruford College (MA Actor-Musicianship) and Exeter University (BA Hons Drama)

Our work is recognised and supported by Arts Council England.ompany

Click the video below to view audience feedback after 40 Elephant's debut opening show at Exeter Northcott's Barnfield Theatre