Theatre interview: Naomi Westerman on co-writing, feminist twists and having a play at #VaultFestival
Actress and writer Naomi has two plays at London's Vault Festival, here she talks about Double Infemnity which she co-wrote with Jennifer Cerys and Catherine O'Shea.
Double Infemnity is described as a 'feminist interpretation of crime noir’. Given the exposure of inequality and the treatment of women working in the creative and entertainment industries in recent months, how much do you think the landscape has shifted?
This is a great question. The landscape has massively shifted over the past few months; what counts is making sure this leads to real and lasting change.
Although I have always been aware of the issues surrounding gender inequality and harassment in theatre (that's a large part of why I founded a female theatre company Little but Fierce) the events of the last few months have made me question just how much I took that inequality for granted, and how powerless I felt when confronted by it.
I had some very negative experiences as an actress where I felt I had no recourse other than to walk away. I'm proud of Little but Fierce and all we've achieved, but all-female work is sometimes at risk of being ghettoised within the mainstream theatre industry, and it's a shame mainstream work is still sometimes an unsafe or exploitative place for women.
The responsibility shouldn't be on women to police an industry that marginalises them. I do think society and the entertainment industry are waking up to the potential and commercial and artistic power of female-led stories, and I believe we will reach gender parity.
What part did it play in inspiring the piece and what else inspired you co-writers Jennifer Cerys and Catherine O'Shea?
I came up with the idea for Double Infemnity last summer, when I was working on several wonderful but quite stressful writing commissions. I wanted to create something without those pressures where I could write whatever I wanted, that was fun and bolshy.
Then #MeToo happened, and the play felt much more urgent. I and my co-writers Jennifer Cerys and Catherine O'Shea were writing the play while the Weinstein and Spacey (et al) scandals were happening, and that definitely influenced the play.
Double Infemnity is quite comedic but there's a sharp satire belying the anger that our main character feels. We researched the period and the noir genre, but a lot was inspired by our own experiences: objectification; sexism in the workplace; double standards; period cramps...