The GAP Salon was particularly busy this month! What a blast we had at the Southbank Centre’s Women of the World Festival and the Etcetera Theatre’s first annual Womens’ Week!
WOW Party at the Southbank Centre. GAP Salon partnered with Female Arts and the So and So Arts Club to throw a “WOW Party” with a variety of performances by women. Programming this event was a really interesting challenge, putting out an open call with no formal theme, beyond a desire for a celebratory feel and diverse representation, on an incredibly short timeline. I’m so proud of the way the evening turned out, and the wonderful artists I had the pleasure to invite to perform. The event was also a chance to bring out an excerpt from The Helen Project, working with director Sharon Burrell and performer Angela Bull for the first time – which led to an invitation from the Lost Theatre to submit a proposal for their Face to Face solo theatre festival this July (details on those upcoming performances here). International Women’s Day at its best: shining a spotlight on women for a day so their work can develop throughout the year.
Bite The Apple at the Etcetera Theatre. GAP Salon members Kate Baiden and Victoria Otter spearheaded this showcase of six scenes featuring juicy roles for female actors, inspired by Lucy Kerbel’s book 100 Great Plays for Women. Between the two performances, Victoria moderated a fascinating panel discussion with Wendy Thomson (Female Arts), Rebecca Dunn (Fluff Productions), and Melissa Dunne (XY Festival), and me! I had such a great time talking about feminist theatre with these thoughtful and well-spoken advocates. Just putting this out there: I would love to do more panels.
Bridget Christie: A Bic for Her at the Soho Theatre. After missing Bridget’s sold-out shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, at Camden People’s Theatre’s Calm Down Dear festival, and at her Soho run earlier this year, I finally caught her delightful, daring, pointed stand-up feminism. I’m looking forward to her next show, An Ungrateful Woman, at this year’s Fringe. According to her website, “At the moment, it is about Michael Gove, media language, my disastrous and ridiculous casting for a yoghurt advert, a case of mistaken identity and some other things that look too awful written down so I’m not going to tell you about them until you’re locked in a room with me.You’ll just have to trust me.” More details here.
The Mistress Contract at the Royal Court. This was the GAP Salon’s second group theatre trip, with the added bonus of a pre-show discussion with Royal Court Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone, and playwrights Abi Morgan (The Mistress Contract) and Nick Payne (Blurred Lines) talking about the current rebirth of feminist theatre, and feminism in general. The Mistress Contract flashes back from the present over a 30-year relationship, and the conversation between the audience and the panel focused heavily on what has changed in that time, with some taking a much more optimistic view than others. I was so impressed by Vicky Featherstone’s candidness about her renewed focus on feminist theatre, having done feminist work at university, then less “controversial” work as she got her career going, now returning to feminism as the artistic director of the Royal Court. I’m quoting from my notes, so this may not be exactly what she said, but I’m going to tape it to my forehead anyway: “In the quest for power, we lose the confidence to speak our minds.” I dearly hope that this, at least, has changed. I’m behaving as though it has, aiming to build a career as an overtly feminist theatre maker. This feels difficult, but possible, in the current culture of feminism-is-trendy-but-watch-out-for-Twitter-trolls. Ms Featherstone, I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for paving the way.
SPRINT festival at Camden People’s Theatre: Lady GoGo Gough and A Journey Round My Skull. Lady GoGo Gough is something I would never have seen in San Francisco: a woman exploring her heritage by singing in Welsh in a solo show that was funny, earnest, silly, sexy, beautiful – and only slightly impenetrable to a non-Welsh speaker. In A Journey Round My Skull, the solo performer spoke to the audience as if we were her patient, suffering from auditory hallucinations which were reproduced through individual wireless headphones. As she moved around a glowing blue head onstage, removing our collective tumor, her voice seemed to travel around my own head as if I were under the knife. Technically impressive, stylishly designed, and a beautiful meditation on the wonders of the brain. Keep an eye on Kindle Theatre.
The Husbands at Soho Theatre. Sharmila Chauhan’s bold new play imagines an India in which women have become so scarce that they marry multiple husbands. There’s an interesting idea trying to emerge here, but it gets lost in a three-hour meandering script that is trying to tell too many stories at once. The central character, a visionary woman who has created her own polygamous utopia (which isn’t quite perfect yet), is potentially fascinating. I hope Kali Theatre pursues another production, along with some dramaturgical support to find what the piece is really about.
Trojan Barbie at Kings College London. This play began life at the Cutting Ball Theater in San Francisco, where I was general manager for three years. But since it was on stage before my time, the most I ever saw of it was in photos on the lobby wall. That plus the Helen of Troy connection, and of course I’m in the audience. The play transposes the Trojan Women – Hecuba, Andromache, Iphegenia, Cassandra, Polyxena, Helen – into a universal any-recent-war-you-can-think-of setting. It’s very clever, held together by the story of a British doll enthusiast who goes on holiday and is kidnapped, throwing her into the world of a modern war camp. I was disappointed, though, that even this feminist retelling paints Helen as a slutty, dolled up idiot who happily flirts with guards to get aspirin. Once again, her sex appeal becomes a character trait instead of a survival tactic. Well, that’s why The Helen Project exists.
I’d Rather Goya Robbed Me of my Sleep than Some Other Arsehole at the Gate Theatre. WHAT WAS THAT? A new Spanish play, freshly translated into English, Rodrigo Garcia’s Goya is full of delight, nihilism, and frantic attempts at living. And live pigs – who, as it happens, are excellent performers. They’re not as eloquent, of course, as the dynamic Steffan Rhodri, but their presence lends itself to moments of sublime serendipity; early in the performance I saw, Rhodi delivered a particularly dry observation about the futility of life, and one of the pigs grunted in agreement. With stylish design, driven direction, and a volatile central performance, this is once of the most thrilling pieces of theatre I’ve seen this year.
7 male / 54 female actors
2 male / 13 female directors
2 male/ 20 female writers
Counting each director and writer in multi-piece International Women’s Day showcases.