Thursday, 26 January 2017

Bechdel Testing 2017

Shows on our radar for 2017... It's as simple as that. As always, get in touch if you have more suggestions!

We'll be talking in more depth about some of these on Bechdel Theatre Podcast, live at VAULT Festival on Feb 1st.
There are still a few tickets left so BOOK NOW to join us with guests including:


On to the recommendations...

VAULT Festival
Where we first saw 'Skin A Cat' last year, before it became an award-winning sensation and opened the first season at super-cool subterranean venue The Bunker. VAULT is the best place outside of Edinburgh to catch new shows before word spreads and they start selling out bigger spaces.
Here are a few that we've noticed this year:
Balancing Acts
Sharing six intimate stories on depression and coping. Devising company Feral Foxy Ladies team up with film-makers Kaleido Film Collective to deliver six candid stories of depression and the ways we find to cope: from diving and sex to song.
Britney
A comedy with lots of heart, and a brain tumour. When good brains go bad. This is the very true and very funny story of two best friends coming to terms with one being diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Fran & Leni
1976. Fran & Leni meet. Three years later they are The Rips. Girls with guitars, bored of playing nice. Music, fishnets, tits and spitting. A full-throttle tale of lifelong friendship.
Puppy 
Comedy following two young women who meet and fall in love while engaging in some light recreational dogging. Together they explore the world of feminist porn and take on the patriarchal establishment.
Princess Suffragette
A contemporary (re)telling of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh’s journey, from her aristocratic upbringing as the daughter of an exiled Maharajah, to her political awakening as the first British-Asian Suffragette.
My World Has Exploded A Little Bit

A darkly comic, deeply personal guide to bereavement. With philosophy, music and silliness. We loved this at Edinburgh and can't wait to interview it's creator on our podcast!


Meanwhile, outside of the vaults...

Escaped Alone -  Royal Court, then touring New York, Salford, Cambridge and Bristol.

One of last year's highlights returns, a searingly up-to-date play about 4 women over 60.

See Me Now - The Young Vic - 11 Feb - 18 March
London sex workers share their painful, touching and often hilarious stories. Male, female and transgender, they are teachers, cleaners and parents. Behind closed doors they’re also paid to make their clients feel good - in all sorts of ways. Some do it for the money, some for love, some for unexpected reasons... A new play about an invisible side of everyday life.


Bucket List - Battersea Arts Centre 13 Feb - 4 March, then touring until 29 April
Set on the Mexico-US border amid turbulent relations, Bucket List follows one Mexican woman's extraordinary quest for justice.
When her mother is murdered for protesting corporate and governmental corruption, Milagros finds herself with a bloodstained list of those responsible and is determined to make them pay.


Brixton Rock - Mangle Nightclub - 15 Feb - 12 March 
Brenton Brown has never known his parents. A brutal feud with the killer Terry Flynn has scarred him for life. As a care leaver living in a hostel he craves the support of a family. But when he meets his mother and his beautiful half-sister, his life changes forever. The Big House stages high profile productions with young people who have been in care

Twelfth Night  - Olivier Theatre - 15 Feb - 17 April 
With Tamsin Greig as gender-swapped Malvolia.




Herstory Festival - Balham N16 Feb 17 & 18
A feminist festival of new writing, creating a platform for political discussion and giving a voice to women. 


Two Man Show - Soho Theatre 20 Feb - 4 March
Another Edinburgh 2016 hit that we couldn't get enough of. Two phenomenal actors and one amazing musican (all female, despite the show title) explore masculinity and challenge gender binaries in a physical performance that'll rock more than your socks off (I've never wanted to perform naked more than when I watched this show).

Roundelay - Southwark Playhouse 23 Feb - 18 March
Sex at 70? Falling in love at 65? Coming out at 62? Never, ever give up on the game of love…You know what they say, love makes the world go round. And sex of course, when you can get it. Roundelay, a fantabulous conglomeration of circus, dance and music. We may not have lions in this little circus of ours, but we have tigers….How’s your inner tiger tonight? Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourself for close encounters with the third age!



a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun) Royal Court Feb 28 - April 7
debbie tucker green returns to the Royal Court with a new play about three couples. It's sold out except for £12 Monday day seats.

Tamburlaine Reclaimed 15 March - 8 April at Arcola, and touring until April 21
Yellow Earth presents Christopher Marlowe’s thrilling, controversial and compelling masterpiece, Tamburlaine. Presented by an East Asian cast in a startling new adaptation this production calls into question the very nature of power, masculinity and violence.

Offside Touring, 24 March - 29 April
Four women from across the centuries live, breathe, and play football. Whilst each of them face very different obstacles in pursuing their dream profession, the possibility that the beautiful game will change their futures – and the world – is tantalisingly close.
By poets Sabrina Mahfouz (who we'll be interviewing about the show on the podcast soon!) and Hollie McNish.

Consent The Dorfman Theatre - 28 March - 17 May
Friends take opposing briefs in a rape case. The key witness is a woman whose life seems a world away from theirs. At home, their own lives begin to unravel as every version of the truth is challenged. 

The Hearing Trumpet The Old Library -April 6 - 29
Adaptation of the inventive and inspirational novel, written by Leonora Carrington in the 1960’s, follows a 92 year-old female protagonist who is having a crisis.

JOAN - Ovalhouse - April 11 - 22
We adore this cabaret-style re-telling of Joan of Arc with Lucy Jane Parkinson (aka drag king LoUis CYfer) in the title role. It was hugely popular at Edinburgh, so grab tickets as soon as they go on sale as part of Ovalhouse's Spring season.



Brighton Festival throughout May
This year's guest director is the sublime Kate Tempest. We 're eagerly awaiting Feb 15th when her programme will be announced.

Dreamgirls at The Savoy Theatre until Oct 21
Because the West End is so often full of old white men, we can't wait to see Amber Riley front this stunner of a musical. Get cheap tickets with the todaytix app lottery (£15 for the front row ain't bad for this calibre of songs and cast)

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour at The Duke of York's Theatre - from May 15
Another stunner of a musical, transferring to the West End this summer. The worlds of theatre and feminism will jointly rejoice at the return of this choir of Scottish schoolgirls on a wild coming-of-age trip to Edinburgh. They take no shit and give no fucks about anyone except each other. Contains strong language and strong direction from our fave Vicky Featherstone.
Tickets go on sale on Jan 31.


Monday, 15 August 2016

Bechdel Testing Edinburgh Fringe Festival

This month we're taking time out from holding Bechdel Theatre Festival conversations to Bechdel test some of the many (many, many) shows at the worlds biggest theatre festival in Edinburgh.
We've been endorsing Bechdel test passing shows with stickers. Keep your eye out if you're looking at a wall of posters and want to choose something with women at the forefront to break up the overwhelming maleness of most of the festival scene. If you see this logo you can be sure that women are being represented.



For ongoing up-to-date tweets about Bechdel test passing shows, in Edinburgh and beyond, follow us on Twitter @BechdelTheatre, but if you're planning your festival calendar and want some solid advice on which shows pass the test to help you cram your month with women on stage, look no further...

(Where possible we've included indicators of where you can catch the shows if you're not in Edinburgh, so have a look even if you're not fringe-ing this year.)

DISCLAIMER

This list of recommendations is uncomprehensive, and while lots of these shows are heartily endorsed, we have included as many as we could verify as Bechdel test passing (either by me, Beth, or one of a team of trusted Bechdel-testing fringe-goers). Although there's a slight bias towards plays and performances that address feminism or gender-related issues, there are plenty where the main topic at hand is something unrelated, with a wide range of styles from drama to comedy, cabaret and musicals. We urge you to check out them all and make up your own minds about whether they were funny, interesting, groundbreaking, feminist, or whatever else you look for on stage. All we can guarantee is that women will be present in these productions!

THEATRE


Adler & Gibb - Summerhall 17:15 (90min) (Also at the Unicorn theatre in London, and The Lowry in Manchester)
In preparation for the film role of a lifetime, an actor goes to extreme lengths to dig up the truth. Her subject is celebrated artist Janet Adler, who rejected the art world in favour of a private life. A scaled-down version of the hit Royal Court production.

A Working Title - SpaceTriplex 21:15 (50min) 
It's about living in the city in a generation of renters, Tinder swipers, never-left-the-nesters, budget shoppers, internshipers, over-the-recommended-daily-allowance-drinkers, minimum wage workers, sofa surfers and daydreamers. Explored with a jaunty live soundtrack, poetry, dancing and silly voices.

Bucket List - Pleasance Dome 15:50 (90min)
When her mother is murdered for protesting corporate and governmental corruption, Milagros finds herself with only a bloodstained list of those responsible. Ad Infinitum use physical storytelling, live music and song to tell this tale of love, loss and revenge.

Clean Break double bill: House and Amongst The Reeds - Assembly George Square Theatre 12:00 (90min) (Also at The Yard Theatre in London)
Two plays for the price of one, from the acclaimed company founded by women prisoners.
House: Pat returns to her childhood home after a five year absence, ready to forgive her mother.
Amongst The Reeds: Oni and Gillian have made their home in a disused office block, finding dangerous ways to stay hidden without the authorities catching up with them.

Dani Girl - Greenside @ Royal Terrace 10:30 (90min)
When Dani, a precocious nine-year-old, loses her hair to leukemia, she embarks on a magical journey to get it back. A tale of life in the face of death, hope in the face of despair, and the indomitable power of the human imagination.

Empty Beds - Underbelly Cowgate 13:50 (1hr) 
The Wyld sisters tend to avoid one another, today they're trapped on a train 250 miles from home, en route to visit their brother in a psychiatric hospital. Explores the human impact of cuts to mental health services.

Expensive Shit - Traverse Theatre  11:00, 13:15, 13:30, 16:00, 18:45, 19:30, 21:45 (70min)
The story of a nightclub toilet attendant working in the toilets of a fictional club based on the Shimmy Club in Glasgow, her conflicted journey spliced with flashbacks to the toilets of the Shrine nightclub in Lagos.

Glasgow Girls - Assembly Hall 14:20 (90min) (if you miss it in Edinburgh see it at Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, Oxford Playhouse, Macrobert Arts Centre in Stirling, Theatre Royal Stratford East in London, Dundee Rep Theatre)
Based on the true story of seven feisty teenagers whose lives change forever when their school friend and her asylum-seeking family are forcibly taken from their home to be deported.  They are galvanised to fight for her life, taking on the government and succeeding where others failed, capturing the imagination of the media and inspiring a whole community to unite behind its residents.

In Tents and Purposes - Assembly George Square Studios 13:30 (1hr) 
Comic 2-hander in which Roxy Dunn (also writer of the piece) and Alys Metcalf explore how much power fate and fortune really has on the lives of two just-graduated 20-somethings. They talk about everything from pubes and doggy-do, to 'what would Bridget Christie do?'

My World Has Exploded A Little Bit - Underbelly Cowgate 13:10 (70min)
Part true story and part absurd performance lecture, Bella and her piano-playing assistant Eva provide a logical, philosophical guide to managing mortality. They dispense practical advice and actual hugs.

Nel - Pleasance Dome 15:00 (1hr)
Nel is a foley artist who brings films to life through sound. Her story explores identity, friendship and what it means to be an introvert.


Octopus - Assembly George Square Theatre 13:45 (1hr) (Also at Theatre503 October 11th-15th)
Set in a world where 'Britishness' is state defined, three women decide to resist definition altogether. They talk about The Spice Girls, The Slits, national identity, race and religion.


Overshadowed - Assembly Roxy 13:20 (70min) (Also touring Ireland throughout October)
This story of a young woman's experience of anorexia aims to provoke compassion and debate around the subject of eating disorders.

Tagged - theSpace @ Jury's Inn 17:35 (50min)
Tagged follows two girls, Seanette and Lynn, who are caught in a cycle of reoffending and breaching court orders, and explores the issues that cause young people to act out and the challenges that confront them when trying to change.

Two Man Show - Summerhall Northern Stage 20:15 (70min) (If you miss it at Edinburgh see it at Soho Theatre in London)
Subversive and punky RashDash are arguably the angriest feminists at this year's fringe, despite the name of this show and it's declared aim to explore masculinity, these 3 performers are most definitely women and they have a lot more to talk about than just men.

Zero Down - Pleasance Courtyard 13:00 (1hr)
Three women working at a care home on zero-hours contracts, not all of them are completely honest, all of them are completely believable. A timely thought-provoking play which raises important questions about integrity, morality and society.

COMEDY

Help - Just The Tonic at the Mash House 11:45 (50min)
Comedy duo Bae want to help you help yourself, in this spot-on spoof of pseudo-gurus out to profit from the quest of the wealthy for health and mindfulness.

Hot Brown Honey - Assembly Roxy 20:20 (65min) (if you miss it in Edinburgh, see it at Hull Truck Theatre and Dublin Fringe Festival)
Widely hailed as THE feminist cabaret to catch while you're in town: a potent punch of hip hop politics, Hot Brown Honey serves up dance, poetry, comedy, circus, striptease and song.

Kitten Killers: Stallions - Underbelly George Square 21:30 (1hr)
Clever, silly, weird and wonderful sketch comedy, with bonus Bechdel test references.


Manic Pixie Dream Girls - Just The Tonic at the Mash House 17:00 (50min)
Stand-ups Sophie Duker and Erin Simmons host a different lady comic every day. These two have great chemistry and provide a fun way to get a taste of some of the funniest female talent at the fringe.

Notflix - Gilded Balloon Teviot 15:15 (1hr)
All-female musical comedy improvisation troupe presents the worst movie you've ever seen, with a live band.





The Guilty Feminist Podcast - Gilded Balloon Teviot Aug 15-17 and 22-24 16:00 (75min) (If you miss it in Edinburgh listen to the recordings at theguiltyfeminist.com)
Deborah Frances-White and Sofie Hagen record their brilliant podcast live at the festival. Each week Sofie, Deborah and a special guest discuss topics "all 21st century feminists agree on" while confessing their insecurities, hypocrisies and fears that underlie their lofty principles.



The Travelling Sisters - Pleasance Courtyard 22:45 
Accomplished sketches from a multi-talented trio of Aussie women. Impressively combining musical mastery, surreal flights of fancy, and rough-and-tumble clowning, the perfect balance of pace and mayhem for a late-night comedy slot.

SOLO SHOWS 
(Stretching the limits of Bechdel testing to include solo shows that feature more than one female voice in the form of multi-role performances, audience involvement, and recordings)

Ada Campe in Cress! - CC Blooms 15:00 (1hr)
Delightfully shouty silliness, magic, and audience interaction galore from an accomplished variety queen and alter-ego of feminist theatre academic Naomi Paxton.

Alison Spittle discovers Hawaii - Gilded Balloon at The Counting House 13:45 (50min)
Talks to her inflatible palm tree, Pam, and various housemates. Hilarious and heartwarming. Don't expect a tropical holiday, but do look forward to flaunting your Lei for the rest of the fest.

Fabric - Underbelly Cowgate 11:55 (70min)
A tour-de-force performance from Nancy Sullivan in a deeply harrowing play by Abi Zakarian. Sullivan's solo performance as bright-spark Leah explores many female relationships along the way, throwing into sharp relief the couple of toxic men whose behaviour is the main focus of the play. The voices of other female friends and family members reach out to Leah in the form of voice-mail recordings. Brace yourself.

JOAN - Underbelly Cowgate 19:20 (70min)
The familiar story of Joan of Arc is made poignantly touching, sparklingly contemporary, and smartly funny. Expertly performed by Lucy Jane Parkinson aka Drag King LoUis CYfer, whose powerful ownership of the stage combined with endearing vulnerability gains the unerring trust of the audience who she enlists to help tell the tale. Talks to her spirit mentor St Katherine an awful lot.

Lolly 2 - Pleasance Courtyard 18:00 (1hr)
Lolly Adefope's characters are mostly (but not all) women, and definitely all hysterically funny. She begins as a quiz-show host talking to competitor 'Stephanie', so passes the test in the first sentence, and has the most searingly funny sketch of the festival as 'Black Hermione'. 

Rainbow Class - Assembly Hall 19:15 (1hr)
Primary school teacher Vivienne Acheampong gives a comic insight into life in an inner-city school in this character comedy show. Combining verbatim text, stories and real life characters. 

Scorch - Roundabout at Summerhall 18:05 (1hr)
A story of a gender-curious teen. Main character Kes has a moving love affair with a girl and a supportive platonic relationship with a transwoman. Kes is played in a stunning performance by Amy McAllister, but her character doesn't conform to the gender-binary implied by Bechdel testing. On this journey of Kes discovering language that allows for self-identification in a world still sadly associating gender with biological sex, playwright Stacey Gregg exposes how far we have to go before society catches up, and regards Kes and all her real-life equivalents as purely human, without anything else mattering. 

Smurthwaite on Masculinity - Banshee Labyrinth 19:15 (1hr)
If you liked the sound of Two Man Show's exploration of the pitfalls of the patriarchy via sharp skewering of hyper-masculinity and so-called manly behaviour, but prefer an intimate stand-up show to interpretive dance, choose Kate. If you like both styles, do as we did and catch both shows. See also: Late with Kate, Smurthwaite's midnight comedy showcase at Canon's Gait.

Sofie Hagen: Shimmer Shatter - Liquid Room Annexe 19:50 (1hr)
Talks to her therapist (who explodes everyone's hearts at the end - in a good way).  A fair bit about men, but crucially not all. Confessional comedy at its bitter-sweetest.

Every effort has been made to include the correct information, but do let us know if we've got it wrong. Happy Bechdel testing!



Thursday, 5 May 2016

I wrote a guest blog for Waking The Feminists in praise of their work and how it has inspired Bechdel Theatre in the UK...

http://www.wakingthefeminists.org/2016/05/03/wakingthefeminsts-story-uk-bechdel-theatre/


Sunday, 20 March 2016

Bechdel Theatre Festival



Today was the launch of Bechdel Theatre Festival, a year-long programme of events highlighting theatre that represents women as complex, diverse and not defined by men. 

For the next year (until March 2017) we will be holding pop-up conversations inspired by (and in association with) productions that pass the Bechdel Test with flying colours. Events will encourage audiences and theatre-makers to talk to each other about what we love to see (and want to see more of) when women are present on stage. 

All events will be free, informal, and aimed at capturing the optimism surrounding increasing representation for women in theatre, and using it to spread the word from committed feminist theatre-lovers and creators to new audiences who may have been put off by theatre's elitist reputation.

The festival is be a celebration of the best work representing women, appreciating theatre of any style and scale, from the biggest West End hit to the smallest fringe show, from brand new work to ancient plays revived, as long as the women on stage represent women in life, with a range of ages, races, shapes, sizes, sexualities, disabilities, backgrounds, jobs and relationships.

For more information about the launch and festival events, see our new website: bechdeltheatre.com and keep up-to-date with twitter.com/bechdeltheatre.






Sunday, 24 January 2016

Looking through a different lens

Bechdel Testing Theatre in 2016

2016 is looking exciting, as the conversation about #WomenInTheatre continues to intensify, with deeper questions building and expanding on the theme of "Where are the women?". 
Last week saw an article in The Guardian featuring some of the best female practitioners of recent times railing against (and occasionally smashing down) the barriers faced by women in theatre. Sarah Crompton's article rightly applauds the writers and directors who are "tearing up the script" of theatre's long-embedded sexist hierarchy in senior jobs, building a new canon and shaking up the old classics to find and create opportunities for actresses. Despite this heady sense of change in the air, Crompton notes that there is still "a general feeling among female playwrights that their gender means their work is viewed differently", and ponders why this might be, since "It’s not as if women are absent from the theatregoers’ gaze" (a claim made with reference only to the Royal Court's latest lady-laden season - a shining example to much of the theatre world, where we still have to focus that gaze concertedly to find such a diverse range of women on stage). Duncan MacMillan muses on responses to the female protagonist of his play, People Places and Things: "the character’s gender is very visible somehow, whereas if it was a male character I don’t think we would think twice", and Vicky Featherstone wonders if last year's lukewarm-reviewed How To Hold Your Breath had "had a male central character, would people have liked it more?", whether it is "something in our cultural DNA that makes us respond differently when a play has a central male character?". 

They're some big questions, as Crompton points out. They're complicated, but too important to just be left hanging there. Researchers have been looking for possible answers:

Do audiences respond differently to male characters?
Hailey Bachrach conducted a revealing experiment, showing the same play, created through the same preparation process, swapping the characters genders in various combinations, and recorded audience responses. Lo and behold, audiences interpreted exactly the same lines and actions differently according to gender, using different words: "coward" for men only, "strong" and "independent" for women only, and passing different judgements on the character's "emotional" state of mind or "moral compass". It seems that characters under a spotlight suffer from the same gendered behaviour expectations as people do real life, with their fictionality allowing viewer bias to be highlighted as audiences are encouraged to express their judgements openly and honestly. Note, Michael Billington's description of Maxine Peake's "chirpy, bright-eyed resilience" in the How To Hold Your Breath review linked above. 

Whether audiences and critics would have favoured a play with a male protagonist isn't proved by this experiment, but it is certainly evident that responses to characters are highly influenced by gender.



Maxine Peake, remaining chirpy in spite of dystopian circumstances

It's also notable in the audience feedback that much judgement of characters was based upon how women and men interact with each other (for example assuming that it is a man's duty to 'protect' a woman). This leads a Bechdel-tester to wonder what the influence on perception might be if female characters are seen interacting with other women in a scene before any men are present on stage, perhaps asserting authority or showing excellent negotiating and debating skills, would their relationships to men be less likely to be viewed stereotypically, as either dependant or interfering?
I would be interested to see a version of this experiment where a Bechdel-passing scene is inserted and removed, to test what difference it makes to perceptions of women on stage when they're seen outside of their relationship to men.

Do we prefer male characters, written by men?
Purple Seven's study (reported in The Stage with a positive headline emphasising equality improvements of recent years), explores the gender gap in opportunities available to women in theatre, and in critical ratings. Their findings:
  • Male playwrights write 37% parts for women. Female playwrights write 60% female parts. Male writers and directors command bigger stages and higher ticket prices, and in 2015 wrote 68% of plays staged.
  • Critics award more 4 and 5 star ratings to plays with majority casts of their own gender, with male reviewer's bias more heavily weighted towards male casts.
Stats from PurpleSeven

On the question of whether greater ticket sales mean that audiences "prefer" male-led plays, the findings are unclear because without equality of opportunity - a similar number of female-led plays staged in equally sized and priced venues - it's difficult to say whether we "simply attend what's on offer". It may be that producers and artistic directors believe that male-led plays are a "safer bet", however, with a 65% female customer base, reviewer ratings showing that women like watching women, and a trend towards female prominence rising, it's hard to imagine that it would be a wasted effort to search out and commission female-led plays.

Whilst not comprehensive, this study and Bachrach's experiment go some way to confirming that the suspicions of the professionals feeling a distinct difference in tone of critical reception as well as level of representation, are based on reality and not some kind of feminist-biased paranoia. Purple Seven's stats offer hope, showing that the number of jobs for women in theatre is growing, offering an increase in opportunities for women to take control of the way we are presented, to create characters that challenge the gendered readings of human interaction shown by Bachrach's audiences, and transform perceptions of women on stage and in society

Looking through a different lens
There is understandable wariness in this creative industry of looking too long and hard at statistics, a justified fear of producing new work to tick boxes and satisfy quotas - but while playing a numbers game is no method for creating great art, there is evidence that where women are given extra support, encouragement and opportunity, by companies making an effort to combat the extra level of judgement and bias faced by female creators and characters, a balance can be achieved without sacrificing quality.

In an assessment of their work following Ireland's #WakingTheFeminists movement, new play company Fishamble, found that the gender balance of playwrights was higher in female representation when specific submissions were called for, or when active support was offered, than amongst unsolicited offerings - it was when the company made an effort to reach out that a greater standard of equality was achieved. This important discovery which contains a valuable clue as to how to practically and effectively balance gender-representation within a theatre's programming, came about thanks to the loud voices (in person and on social media) of women in the industry and audience who spoke out and made demands for representation. #WakingTheFeminists is a powerful example of the impact and changes that are possible when campaigners at all levels of our career or involvement in theatre get together and make a lot of noise.


Wear your feminism on your sleeve (or bag, or lapel)

Vicky Featherstone said that she disagrees with quotas in favour of 'choosing the best play', but herself has demonstrated a willingness to seek out a high number of female writers and directors and include a more diverse range of roles for women that represents statistical progress towards equality in gender representation. Though not using a quota system, Featherstone's gender-balanced and high-calibre season demonstrates the effectiveness of putting a feminist with acutely-honed gender awareness in a position of power. She has, as she put it herself, the ability to look 'through a different lens' as a result of being part of the conversation about women in theatre, using her own feminist perspective to fulfil quotas without ever having had to impose them. The fact that her season has made headlines suggests that more pressure is needed on other theatres, producers and artistic directors to make a 50% female season normal instead of noteworthy.


Harris and Featherstone, unfortunately still part of a minority amongst theatre establishment figures

Shout to be heard 
More noise can still be made about the importance of aiming for equality of representation, whether it's achieved through high-level awareness of feminists in programming positions or through stats being published and companies being held to account, but that noise needs to come from somewhere, which is why @BechdelTheatre encourages audiences, actors, directors, anyone participating in this industry at any level, to cheer loudly at every step in the right direction. Shout about every great script or show that represents the diversity and complexity of the female humans who make up half of our population,  and do it just as loudly as we condemn every male-centric season or stereotyped female casting. Remind your colleagues and fellow theatre-goers to switch on their internal gender-awareness alarm when reading a script or casting breakdown, or buying a ticket to a play. Make a resolution to always ask:
  • Is more than one woman involved in this show? 
  • Are they writing or directing? 
  • Does it pass the Bechdel Test? 
If you know of a female-led production or company at any level, representing a diverse range of women in high-quality work, congratulate them, support them by buying tickets, and next time bring along a feminist friend who thinks "theatre's not for me" - to prove them wrong. 

If you're a playwright, deviser or looking to create brand new work this year, you could commit to answering the questions above, and then go a step further by consulting the Sphinx Test to put women at the centre of your stage:


Sphinx Theatre's list of considerations for theatre-makers writing female characters

The big hope #WomenInTheatre for 2016 is for everyone inspired and empowered by #WakingTheFeminists to put even more pressure on artistic directors and producers to use their audience-eye-view, step up to the mark and consider which plays and characters will most please increasingly diversity-aware female-majority audiences, and which ones will help shift the (white/straight/upper-class/non-disabled) male-preferential bias (in both theatre and society) into the realms of history.


Friday, 22 January 2016

#WomenInTheatre Events for January 2016

Happy (belated) New Year, Bechdel Testers of Theatre! A longer blog post is on its way, having been bumped down the priorities list in favour of seeking a venue and participants to launch Bechdel Theatre Festival by springtime. Until then, here's a few events to stick in the diary if you're looking for some feminispiration to chase away the January chills...

#WomenInTheatre Events for January 2016

In the third Sphinx Salon on Saturday January 23rd April de Angelis, Sabrina Mahfouz and Aiofe Monks will continue the conversation about "Creating The Female Narrative". The three Sphinx Salon's so far have included discussion of what audiences look for in female characters, who women want to see and play on stage, what writers and theatre-makers can do to put women centre stage, how to bring about equality in gender representation in quality as well as quantity of roles, and whether the 'hero's journey' traditional narrative structure is useful in telling women's stories - or do alternative structures need to be explored to reflect our gender's experiences and perceptions of the world?
Expect plenty of discussion of the newly created Sphinx Test (see below), a fantastic guide for writers and theatre-makers intending to make work that goes beyond simply passing the Bechdel Test and aims to put women firmly centre stage.



Siberian Lights are a new theatre company holding free and open all-female play readings every Monday evening at The Pleasance Theatre, email them to be cast in a reading, or just turn up to listen (men are welcome to listen though readers will be women-only) and discuss the play afterwards, including debating any feminist issues raised, and the impact (where relevant) of women's voices in originally male roles. Monday 25th's reading will be April de Angelis' Playhouse Creatures



Out of Joint's new play, Jane Wenham - The Witch of Walkern has been touring the country, and currently playing at The Arcola until January 30th. From a company with an impressive Bechdel test pass record, this production has a 5/3 f/m cast balance, a female writer/director team of Rebecca Lenkiewicz and Ria Parry, and comes highly recommend.
On Saturday 23rd, between matinee and evening shows, they are holding a Panel Event on the topic of 'Witches, Women and Outsiders'. I've asked if this event can be recorded or transcribed for anyone in a conundrum like myself, having already booked for the Sphinx Salon (above) at the same time. Fingers crossed!



VAULT Festival also begins next week, where Skin A Cat (playing until Sunday 31st) looks to be a highlight, from another female writer/director team and a 2/1 f/m cast. This Theatre In Heights production features Jessica Clark, who was great in Rotterdam (one of last year's theatre highlights at Theatre503), and Lydia Larson who I last saw being brilliant on stage at The Orange Tree Theatre in Caryl Churchill's The After Dinner Joke. 
Also at VAULT, Devoted & Disgruntled are hosting open space conversations about the future of theatre, including one about Funny Women, following their most recent event in Birmingham where feminist criticism in theatre reviews was one of the many topics discussed at length.



Speaking of Caryl Churchill, tickets for her newest play Escaped Alone are still available. Murmurs coming from this week's first previews have been filled with praise for the cast of 4 women in their 60s and 70s, each living up to their formidable theatrical reputations. Get a ticket before it goes to press next Thursday, January 28th, to make sure you don't miss out.


Apologies for remaining somewhat London-centric for now, hopefully as Bechdel Theatre's testing team grows, we will have more wide-ranging recommendations. If you would like to contribute, please do tweet or email with details!

And finally...

Bechdel Theatre Festival
A celebration of women in theatre 
Will be launching very soon - watch this space for this year's first event announcements!