Rosalind Hewett

What’s new for feminism in the theatre?

So, it’s been a while since I contributed to this series that I set out to do on a regular basis last year. But, well, life. I’m not here to apologise for that. I’ve been saving articles and nuggets of inspiration for posts as they pop up, but never found the time to commit my own thoughts to paper (computer).

Here are a few but not all of the things I’ve had as food for thought since my last post;

  • The Twitter account @femscriptintros run by Ross Putman which tweets the frankly awful introductions that female characters get in scripts. The account changes all the female names to JANE in order to anonymise the scripts. It is fully depressing. Excuse me whilst I cry-laugh at the below;

“JANE does her make-up in front of the bathroom mirror. She is tall and strikingly attractive with a dazzling smile we’ll get to see later.”
“JANE, 22, makes her grand appearance. She is a breath-taking young woman – a vision of natural beauty.”
“JANE, 23, waits with hot coffee. She’s an attractive, urban girl with multiple piercings.”

  • In January, choreographer and dancer Akram Khan said that the numbers of female choreographers should not be increased just ‘for the sake of having more female choreographers’. Luke Jennings, the Observer’s dance critic wrote a great response which can be found here. Although it could also be noted that here are two men, both prominent in their careers talking about issues that affect aspiring female choreographers. Joyous.
  • In February, the National Theatre committed to gender equality in terms of the directors and living writers the venue employs by 2021. As he unveiled his new season of work in February, artistic director Rufus Norris described gender balance across the whole organisation as “massively important”. This is obviously brilliant news – but with this being the National Theatre of Great Britain that recently celebrated its 50th birthday, the news comes with a weary sigh of ‘about time’!
  • More National Theatre news – the Guardian article ‘Is 2016 the year of the female playwright?’ shared the exciting news that on 13 April, the NT will have plays by women on three stages on the same night:Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry in the Olivier, Suhayla El-Bushra’s The Suicide in the Lyttelton and Annie Baker’s The Flick in the Dorfman.
  • In the Guardian article ‘Sexism on the stage – meet the women tearing up the script’ Sarah Crompton captures a very accurate sense of the “unconscious and historical’ bias against women in theatre through a conversation with Royal Court artistic director Vicky Featherstone (who has announced a year which is rich with female playwrights). Definitely worth a read.
  • Belle Jar contributor and actor Jenny Wilford, and actor Charlotte Couture were interviewed by Huffington Post about their company, Sheer Height Theatre which focusses on redressing gender inequality in the theatre. Their latest festival of plays ‘Women Redressed’ will be at the Arcola Theatre on 20th

So, as usual a combination of wonderful strides forward, but still a sense that gender inequality is still rife in theatre.

I’d like to end on some happier news. Next week is International Women’s Day. The Southbank Centre in London is hosting the Women of the World Festival 2016 a huge cultural celebration and exploration of all things female. There are a huge range of events, speakers, discussions and opportunities to meet fantastic women (and men) at the world’s largest cultural festival network of its kind. Lots of the Belle Jar Team will be there, and I’ll definitely be getting tickets for Eve Ensler’s Fruit Trilogy

See you there!

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