News: Jermyn Street Theatre and Digital Theatre join forces for 15 Heroines

Jermyn Street Theatre has joined forces with leading internet theatre platform Digital Theatre for a major new online project to be produced this autumn. 

15 Heroines sees fifteen female and non-binary playwrights re-telling the stories of the women of classical myth. Inspired by Ovid’s The Heroines (Heroides), a collection of fifteen fictional letters written in the first century BCE, the project is produced and directed by Jermyn Street Theatre’s Artistic Director Tom Littler. The writers comprise April De AngelisStella DuffySamantha EllisLorna FrenchJuliet Gilkes RomeroNatalie HaynesCharlotte JonesHannah KhalilBryony LaveryIsley LynnLettie PreciousSabrina MahfouzChinonyerem OdimbaTimberlake Wertenbaker and Abi Zakarian. Continue reading “News: Jermyn Street Theatre and Digital Theatre join forces for 15 Heroines”

News: Women’s Prize for Playwriting shortlist announced

The inaugural Women’s Prize for Playwriting has announced the 35 shortlisted scripts that will compete for its £12,000 prize. The prize is run by Ellie Keel Productions and Paines Plough, with production company 45North in association with Sonia Friedman Productions.

It was launched last year, to celebrate UK and Ireland-based writers who identify as female. The winning playwright will receive £12,000 in respect of an exclusive option for the lead producers – EKP and Paines Plough – to coproduce their play and the work will also be published by Samuel French. Continue reading “News: Women’s Prize for Playwriting shortlist announced”

Women in Theatre – 2016 in review

Attending the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival late last year, it was amusing to hear Sphinx Theatre’s Sue Parrish’s favourite anecdotes about the first ever report on the status of women in theatre that she commissioned in 1983. It found that out of 1024 productions surveyed across the country, only 11% were written by women and the majority of those were by Agatha Christie alone.

It got me thinking that I hadn’t continued the gender audit of my own theatregoing which I started in 2014 – the results of which can be read here – and whilst nothing comprehensive can be drawn from the 300 or so plays that I saw in 2016, I think it is interesting to break down the figures and see how they look. I think I do try and see a good mix, questioning why this production is all-male or that one has no diversity, but at the same time I do like to see a lot of gay theatre which inevitably skews male, it’s hard to keep everything balanced…

In lieu of the Bechdel Test, I opted to measure the number of plays I saw with at least 50% women in their cast and it was pleasing to see that I’ve managed to keep that proportion going up over the last couple of years. Obviously these statistics don’t record the quality of the roles being played, but in all honesty it is too hard to work out that level of detail in advance of seeing the number of shows we’re talking about here. Continue reading “Women in Theatre – 2016 in review”

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival, Hampstead Theatre

“Join the movement for righteous anger”

With over 100 cast, writers, directors and crew, and 25 plays (none of which were by Agatha Christie!) spread over 7 programmes, Sphinx Theatre’s Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival was a full-on day indeed for those of us who stayed the course from midday to nearly 10pm, with scarcely time to imbibe yet another coffee as we moved from rehearsal room to studio to main house. But though I was 90% caffeine by the end, the buzz I was experiencing was one of delight at the sheer breadth and quality of the theatre we’d been privileged to witness.

The Women Centre Stage Festival was initiated by Sphinx to bring together artists, venues, commissioners and funders in expanding the range of women’s roles and this it has done in a number of different ways. Workshops ran throughout the week at the Actors Centre, a panel discussion broached the larger question of how to improve gender equality in theatre and the plays that were presented throughout the festival’s performance day ranged from works commissioned and developed from the 2105 festival, to the fruits of Sphinx Writers Group, to rapid responses to this week’s headlines. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival, Hampstead Theatre”

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – A Question of Identity

“I’m laughing on the outside but screaming on the inside”

The first session of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival, tucked away in a rehearsal room under the stage, was entitled A Question of Identity, featuring three contrasting works of equal but different power. I saw Rose Lewenstein’s Fucking Feminists as part of the Acts of Defiance festival at Theatre503 a couple of months ago, but its rapid wordplay and competing voices which parse and pull apart notions of contemporary feminism easily allow for repeated viewing as you consider whether a chair can be feminist or if white feminists are only interested in getting themselves above the glass ceiling.

As directed by Lisa Cagnacci, the foursome of Ania Sowinski, Jody Jameson, Karlina Grace-Paseda, and Anna Elijasz are clearly revelling in the familiarity with their material and pushing both its thoughtfulness and cheekiness. By comparison, Stephanie Ridings’ The Road To Huntsville is much more restrained, a one-woman show tracking a writer’s research journey into the world of women who correspond and enter in romantic relationships with convicts. Though perhaps less overtly theatrical, its message is no less chilling (I’m still reeling from the Danielle Steel titbit) and Ridings expertly manoeuvres our sympathies through her discoveries. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – A Question of Identity”

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – Women on the Edge

“It’s something about my appearance that I can control”

The Women on the Edge session of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival featured three works that were commissioned and developed from the 2015 festival held at the National Theatre. This just happened to include one of my favourite pieces from across the entire day – Camilla Harding and Alexandra Sinclair’s Man Up! Deceptively simple in its format yet deliciously complex in its subject matter, the pair give the lie to conventional gender norms and make a fabulously compelling case for the importance of recognising gender fluidity in society.

Their stagecraft is ingenious too, transformations subtly worked so that they were halfway complete before you clock exactly what’s going on. Judith Jones and Beatrix Campbell’s Justice has no such ambiguity about it, an emotionally bruising look at the lasting impact of the Cleveland child abuse scandal and the trials its victims face in trying to escape its shadow, in search of a truth, a resolution that might somehow set them free. Directed by Ros Philips, Claire-Louise Cordwell’s damaged warrior of justice is a brilliantly thorny part and contrasted well with Kathryn O’Reilly’s softer but no less fierce budding campaigner. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – Women on the Edge”

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – PRIDE and Prejudice

“Being deaf isn’t being broken”

The middle session of Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival saw our first trip into the Hampstead’s main house for PRIDE and Prejudice. Opening with What I Was Told I Could Be And What I’ve Become, a collection of new worldviews from Graeae’s female writers. Directed by Jenny Sealey, six scenes played out with increasingly intermingled with each other, different experiences of life as disabled women coalescing into a theatrical roar.

Full list of playlets
Boys on Bikes by Karen Featherstone starring Phillipa Cole, 
Klutz by Amy Bethan Evans starring Kellan Frankland, 
Kids by Jackie Hagan starring Ali Briggs, 
Days of Our Lives by Rosaleen McDonagh starring Taharah Azam 
Statuesque by Rebekkah Bowsher starring Nickie Wildin 
Single by Matilda Ibini starring Vilma Jackson

Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – PRIDE and Prejudice”

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – New Women

“Engaging with the voices is a radically liberating move”

There was undoubtedly a lot of theatre during the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival but for me, the New Women session in the middle of the day was the highlight – three cracking pieces which variously looked to the past, the present and the future to thrilling effect. We started with a group new to me – The Hiccup Project – two Brighton based performers blurring the lines between dance, comedy, and theatre to create a most beguiling form of performance art.

Somewhat confessional, somewhat quirky, altogether fun, Cristina Mackerron and Chess Dillon-Reams’ May-We-Go-Round was a delight and a canny piece of programming as it was unlike anything else in all 10 hours of the day, made me excited to see further work by them and if nothing else, reminded us all of the benefits of a good skip. Looking to the past, Winsome Pinnock’s Tituba embroiders a rich emotional life for the character who almost incidentally appears in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – New Women”

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – Sphinx Writers Group

“You told me getting pregnant would kill me”

The Sphinx Theatre Writers Group have been developing new ideas for six months now and the penultimate session of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival allowed us to peep at the fruits of their labour. First up was Jessica Siân’s White Lead directed by Chelsea Walker (the pair reuniting after their incendiary work on Klippies last year). Circling around ideas of artistic legacy, both genetic and physical, with a healthy dose of lesbian angst and same-sex parenting thrown in for good measure, Sian’s writing was undoubtedly elevated by fearsomely committed performances from the glorious Kirsty Bushell and Karen Bryson and definitely left me wanting more.

Bunch by Catriona Kerridge, directed by Holly Race Roughan took an interesting route into the world of its mystery, first up contrasting the nature of public and private grief through the all-too-real loss suffered by two young women and the almost manic behaviour of a professional mourner, relishing the shared emotions released by high profile deaths be it Princess Di or the victims of the Soham murders. Bunch took a little while to get going for me but once it did, delivering a hell of a twist, I was again hungry for a continuation. Sara Huxley, Natasha Rickman and Miranda Bell starred in that one. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – Sphinx Writers Group”

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – 24 Hour Plays | Making Headlines

“Open your eyes, what do you see?”

It may well have had much to do with the fact that I was knackered after the previous six but I have to admit that the seventh final session of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival was probably my least favourite of the day. The 24 Hour Plays | Making Headlines programme saw writers respond to headlines of the moment to create rapid response plays – none of which really lived up to the quality of the programmed works that had preceded them.

There were lots of interesting ideas floating around – Rebecca Lenkiewicz and director Anna Ledwich’s scorching take-down of Vogue’s declaration that the cleavage is out of fashion probably worked the best, interleaved with a young woman’s desperate search for adequate healthcare and the inadequacy of male responses to a serious discussion about breasts. And Charlene James’ kidnap drama with a twist gave Maggie Steed a cracking part to play, directed by Alice Hamilton. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – 24 Hour Plays | Making Headlines”