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Women's stories not seen on stage

12 March 2013

Equal Writes, part of the nationwide campaign calling for UK theatre to fully engage with the need for gender parity and to become more flexible and inclusively representative, presented at the Tristan Bates Theatre on 11 March an evening of selected scenes, monologues and discussion focusing on women, women’s stories and women in situations we are not presently seeing represented on UK stages.

Equity Vice-President Jean Rogers (left) reports from the event:

Many congratulations to Equity member Mandy Fenton for bringing off such a successful evening of exciting and innovative pieces featuring women of all ages and diversities. A fantastic event at the Tristan Bates Theatre last night.

In barely a month, after inviting contributions, she and the readers sifted through around 800 pieces contributed by more than 600 individuals which were performed by 22 actors, all but one of whom were female, in twelve pieces directed by six female directors. A mammoth task! 

At least four of the twelve presentations were written by men and none of the writing relied on female stereotypes.  Many were pertinent observations of how women cope with society's expectations of them or illustrated how women could be, if the tables were turned and they were the protagonist,  as in "Ms Bond" by Emma Wilson.

In "La Barbe", a hilarious piece by Sarah Rutherford, Charlotte Randle donned a full brown beard and told how wearing it helped her cope with her male colleagues' sexist behaviour, so much so that underneath it she was growing her own.  In "Walkie Talkies" by Kaite O'Reilly,  Mandy Colleran  too used skilful comic timing to show how someone, despite disability, needs, and should expect, independence and respect.

One of the most moving pieces was written by Alice Jolly.  In "A Blue Bonnet For Samuel", beautifully played by Catherine Harvey, Alice explored the depths of a mother's loss caused by the ineptitude of a doctor at her baby's birth, still resonating many years later - her grief, her pain, her anger but above all her generosity of spirit to others caught up in similar circumstances.

There were many memorable performances, not one disappointing contribution, all deserving praise, and more importantly a life after this.  

I  must mention Yvonne Brewster and Joanna Wake as inmates of a sheltered home portraying two feisty, competitive, arm wrestling women from different cultures, who shared a mutual love and respect.  "Flags" by Andrew Curtis, directed by Hannah Price, was warm, funny and very real. In "Medicine" by David Spencer and "Downfall" by Sumerah Srivastava we saw life from the younger perspective, raw and unaffected, touching in its pain.

At the end of the evening Mandy chaired a panel with questions and observations from the audience. On the panel was the writer Winsome Pinnock, the theatre director Hannah Price and I was on it too, outlining Equity's continuing gender campaign.

This was refreshing theatre. How well the actresses took over the stage and made it their own. Backed by cleverly observed and executed writing, it was a joy to receive stories unfamiliar in theatrical terms but so familiar in ones daily life.  Very absorbing, relevant, touching and funny.

Do go on the Equal Writes website where you can see the the names of the splendid writers, actors and directors: http://equalwrites.co.uk/

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