Tonight we showcased 7 plays that have all responded to our theme of ‘What is art?’ in different ways.
Sally Whyte’s play ‘Joined at the hip’ was written in response to a painting by Frida Kahlo ‘The Two Fridas’. Maggie Drury’s ‘The arrangement’, Karen Bartholomew’s ‘Who knows art?’ and my own play ‘Graf’ were all musings on the question of what exactly art is, and who has the right to define it.
‘My Bloody Laundrette’ by Ali Kemp and Deborah Klayman interpreted the theme in a magical realist way – Princess Leia, Mona Lisa and Juliet Capulet, all women created by men, who decide to give themselves and each other a voice.
Sioned Jones’ ‘Drawing a blank’ and ‘Pink Lady’ by Tracy Harris were both about relationships. But with unexpected twists and shown from different angles.
One of the criticisms as to why theatres won’t commission work by women is that they only tell stories about relationships. In fact there is a carton by an American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, which summarises the perceived problem –
‘Are there women on the stage? Do they speak to each other? About something other than men?’
But of course Bechdel’s carton wasn’t just referring to plays written by women, over the summer there has been a debate around roles for women, with Equity asking theatres to account for how many roles for women vs. roles for men they have in their seasons. Not surprisingly there are far fewer roles for women, and far fewer leading roles. So not only do male writers rule the roost, they tend to create strong male characters and less complex female roles, so the theatre going audience just gets more of the same.
In She Writes, I have attempted to programme plays with varied and challenging roles for both women, and men. It has just so happened that most of the plays we have showcased have tended to have more female roles, maybe because there is also a desire amongst female playwrights to even the score of who we can see on stage.
The plays tonight were all of an extremely high quality, so thanks again to the writers and the cast and crew.
She Writes is certainly building a fine body of work, that gives a snapshot of the diversity, range and sense of fun of women’s writing at the moment. The standard of the plays tonight only served to reinforce the point that there is so much good writing by women out there, and that more theatres should pick up the baton and start programming it. Come along to our next show on 5 December to see for yourself.