13 posts categorized "Feminist theatre" Feed

Interview: Libby Liburd and Cathy Tyson talk Fighter, Stratford Circus - "The drama of a fight night coupled with the laughter of a comedy night".

"You'll get the drama of a fight night coupled with the laughter of a comedy night."

Fighter (Stratford Circus Arts) is the story of a single mum who decides to take up boxing. Set in a boxing gym with cast that includes young boxers, I asked writer/performer Libby Liburd and performer Cathy Tyson about the inspiration behind the play and what it's like to perform.

12) Libby Liburd Headshot 2 Credit Jon Holloway
Libby Liburd. Photo by Jon Holloway

Tell us a bit about Fighter and what inspired you to write the play?

Libby Liburd: Fighter is the story of Lee, who finds herself plunged into the world of boxing, and through finding herself in a world that doesn't yet embrace women in the ring, she finds her 'happy place' where she feels she belongs and is alive.

It's about literal and figurative fights and changing through challenge. Most of the show is set in 1998, which was super important for me as the late 90's was the era when women in Britain were finally able to fight.

Up until 1996, there was a ban on women boxing in the Amateurs and it was only in 1998 that the first professional women boxers were licensed in Britain.

So, that research, my own experiences as a boxer and conversations with our Ambassador Cathy Brown (the 2nd ever licensed Pro female boxer in the UK) inspired the story of Lee and her journey.

Why is a story like this important and why now?

Libby: I think theatre generally should tell exciting and unheard stories. Certainly, I think we're used to seeing boxing as an inspiration for theatre, but I've never seen the kind of story I'm telling in Fighter.

It's elevating themes of motherhood and womanhood but the story of courage, resilience and overcoming obstacles is universal. It's a story that everyone can relate to whilst at the same time, exposing a truth and aspects of history that we might not be aware of.

Continue reading "Interview: Libby Liburd and Cathy Tyson talk Fighter, Stratford Circus - "The drama of a fight night coupled with the laughter of a comedy night"." »


Review: Emilia, Vaudeville Theatre - humour, fun and feminism

Music and a final dance metaphorically lifts Emilia and her message onto shoulders and had the audience leaping up for a standing ovation.

Clare Perkins (Emilia 3)  Saffron Coomber (Emilia 1) and Adelle Leonce (3) in Emilia at the Vaudeville Theatre. Photo credit Helen Murray.
Clare Perkins (Emilia 3) Saffron Coomber (Emilia 1) and Adelle Leonce (3) in Emilia at the Vaudeville Theatre. Photo credit: Helen Murray.

I've read reviews of Morgan Lloyd Malcolm's play Emilia that describe its feminist message as 'unsubtle' and the titular character's suffering as overblown.

It's comments like that, which reinforce the need for plays like this and why, perhaps, the time for subtlety is over.

An all-female cast tells the story of Emilia Lanier née Bassano regarded as the first professional female poet, one of the first feminist writers in England and possibly the inspiration behind Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady'.

Three actresses - Saffron Coomber, Adelle Leonce and Clare Perkins - play Emilia at three stages of her life.

Perkins' Emilia opens and closes the play with rousing speeches about the inequality and prejudice served upon herself and women generally.

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Review: Drag, self-discovery and civil war in Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran, Omnibus Theatre

Mixing the more colourful and camp with the harsh realities of inequality and creative restaint for the Iranian women is a powerful storytelling device.

1_Nathan Kiley in Lipstick A Fairy Tale of Iran_Flavia Fraser-Cannon
Nathan Kiley in Lipstick A Fairy Tale of Iran. Photo: Flavia Fraser-Cannon

A catwalk divides the seats at the Omnibus Theatre on which drag queen in green sequined dress is lip synching.

However, this isn't a Friday-night cabaret performance of a power ballad or pop song instead she tells the story of an Iranian woman, blinded and disfigured in an acid attack by a jealous man.

Mixing contrasting forms with narrative is a clever and powerful feature of Sarah Chew's play based on her real experiences when her six-week, Arts Council-funded cultural exchange trip to Iran coincided with the Green uprising.

While Orla (Siobhan O'Kelly) is in Iran, her best friend Mark (drag artist Nathan Kiley) is putting the finishing touches to their new club back in Soho.

Candid voicemail messages

As the story of Orla's trip unfolds, Kiley plays all the other characters as well as Mark who leaves long, amusingly candid voicemail messages for her.

It is inventive storytelling mixing boylesque, drag, Vaudeville with more traditional forms, and at times it feels like a fairytale - a dark, modern fairytale laced with very real modern life horrors.

Continue reading "Review: Drag, self-discovery and civil war in Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran, Omnibus Theatre" »


Pinter and misogyny post #metoo - was Pinter ahead of the curve or playing for laughs?

Last year saw the #metoo movement explode and finally expose the appalling behaviour women can experience, was Pinter ahead of the curve?

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Pinter Six of the Pinter at the Pinter season is the first that I can say I quite enjoyed but it didn't stop a nagging question I've had for a while: Was Pinter a misogynist?

I'm not alone as it was the first question in the post-show Q&A with director Jamie Lloyd and cast members Celia Imrie, Ron Cook and Abraham Popoola.

Pinter Six is made up of two plays: Party Time and Celebration both exploring similar themes (link to a review below).

They centre on two different groups of nouveau riche who are shallow in their obsessions for fine things and for all the bonhomie are isolated, disconnected and lonely.

Treatment of women

Both plays are funny and exposing. But they also have something else in common: The women are often not treated very well by the men.

They are derided, ridiculed or presented as ridiculous, nagging or stupid. If they have any purchase in their relationships it feels like it is being presented under judgement.

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2018 theatre review: My favourite plays of the year (and my first six star play)

So I've published my favourite fringe plays list and my least favourite plays list, time now for my best plays of 2018 overall, gleaned from everything I've seen - large productions and small, commercial theatres, subsidised and fringe:

via GIPHY

Misty, Trafalgar Studios

A play which put the pulse back into the West End and as a result was a breath of fresh air.

A Monster Calls, Old Vic

I was nervous about seeing a stage adaptation of a much-loved book but the creativity with which it was staged combined with the performances meant I was an emotional wreck by the end. So much of an emotional wreck, I had to walk around for a bit afterwards to compose myself.

Queens of Sheba, Underbelly, Edinburgh Fringe

A play about the dual prejudice of sexism and racism encountered by black women that succeeded in being both angry, uplifting and empowering.

It left me feeling teary in a happy/sad/exhilarated way and ready to march if the call came.

There is another chance to see it at the New Diorama Theatre, Jan 30-Feb 3 as part of the Vault Festival.

Notes from the Field, Royal Court

It was an uncomfortable, seat-squirming, horrifying joy to sit and experience and I gave it an unprecedented six stars. Yes, six stars.

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2018 theatre review: My 10 favourite fringe plays

Edinburgh Fringe media pass2018 was my first year at the Edinburgh Fringe which produced a bumper crop of excellent plays (look out for transfer details) but London has delivered some gems too.

Out of the 50-odd fringe plays there are 10 that really stand out but what strikes me most when revisiting them is how many evoked such a strong emotional reaction.

Yes, some are on the list for being highly entertaining but others made me feel angry or empowered or rebellious, some even a bit teary.

The other thing that strikes me is their diversity in ethnicity and gender balance tipped away from male dominance but I'll be writing more about that in another post.

So, in no particular order:

1. The Claim, Shoreditch Town Hall

Based on research into Home Office procedures this exposes the farcical system that asylum-seekers encounter but more than that, how incompetence endangers people's lives. It made me very angry.

2. My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court Upstairs

It's been an incredible year for Patsy Ferran, kicked off in fine style with this solo performance in a play about a girl's relationship with her mother who has joined a cult. Funny and spirited it also had dark edges.

3. Coconut, Ovalhouse

An effervescent love story and a coming of age story that challenged stereotypes.

4. Flesh and Bone, Soho Theatre upstairs

Shakespeare-esque lyricism combined with East End vernacular cleverly takes you on a revealing and entertaining journey that elevates the stories of those that often overlooked. Shakespeare would, no doubt, have approved.

Continue reading "2018 theatre review: My 10 favourite fringe plays " »


Can we move beyond gender-swapping roles on stage and write better characters for women?

Bernhardt_Hamlet2A theatre announces that a classic male role will be played by a woman and gets a plethora of headlines as a result.

While giving a woman a meaty, lead role is something to be applauded, it exposes the shortcomings in onstage equality in theatre-land.

Gender swapping characters isn't fresh, new and exciting, it's starting to feel overused, calculated and like lip-service. 

Progress in Hollywood

Given the progress Hollywood seems to be making on equality and diversity theatre land needs to up its game.

In fact, recent research shows that films with a female lead have bigger box office takings than those with a male lead so there is also a business case.

Part of the problem is the reliance on regurgitating classic plays which tend to be male-dominated. 

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Interview: Playwright Jennifer Cerys on queer history and 3D lesbian characters

Playwright Jennifer Cerys' new play Dandelion at the King's Head Theatre explores queer history through a lesbian relationship in the time of Clause 28. Here she talks about why queer history is important and the need to diversify queer narratives in mainstream theatre.

Dandelion Show ImageIt’s 30 years since Clause 28 why is it important for queer history to be on the stage?

Though it may be 30 years since Clause 28 was introduced, and 15 years since it was repealed, the effects of it can still be seen in our education system today.

The School Report by Cambridge University last year found that 40% of lesbian, gay, bi and trans young people are never taught anything about LGBT issues at school.

Though schools should obviously be the place where queer history is taught, showing it on stage will hopefully be a step in the right direction.

I know a young, queer me would’ve loved to have learnt about my community’s history at school, as it would have given me a greater sense of belonging and identity.

Some of the biggest plays of the past few years have centred on gay characters - Angels in America, The Inheritance, My Night With Reg (to name just three) which is fabulous to see but stories which feature lesbian narratives still feel like the preserve of fringe theatre. Is there a queer glass ceiling that needs smashing?

Definitely! It’s great to see any queer characters on stage, but lesbian narratives do seem to be forgotten.

I saw the brilliant Grotty by Damsel Productions earlier this year and that show was the first time I had seen lesbian characters on stage.

When I was growing up, lesbians and bisexual women were presented through a male gaze in an overly-sexualised way and I saw a lesbian for the first time over the shoulder of a boy at school who was watching porn on his phone.

Shows like Grotty (and hopefully Dandelion) show lesbians as much more 3D and complex than simply someone’s sexual fetish.

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3 brilliant Edinburgh Fringe shows to see in London

LADY KILLERSome great Edinburgh Fringe shows are heading to London, here are three I saw that I can highly recommend.

The Fishermen, Arcola (until 1 December) 

Based on a Man-booker listed novel, The Fishermen is about four brothers who go fishing somewhere they aren't supposed to and the consequences of that fateful night.

It is fast-paced, the narrative rich with detail, the characters beautifully drawn.

Read my full The Fishermen review here. 

Ladykiller, Pleasance Theatre (30 Nov - 1 Dec)

A hotel room, a dead body, a maid covered in blood with a knife in her hand. This isn’t what it looks like, it definitely isn’t.

'Her' is a perverse figurehead for female empowerment and it is that contradiction and the darkness that I loved.

Read my full Ladykiller review here.

Angry Alan, Soho Theatre (5-30 March 2019)

An ordinary American man comes across a men's rights campaigner who seems to have answers to all his problems. It won awards at the Fringe and for good reason.

You'll laugh, scoff and roll your eyes at the irony of what Roger says but the final blow is a tragic irony.

Read my full Angry Alan review here.


Review: Bullet Hole, Park Theatre - a brave exposé of the physical and psychological impact of FGM

Bullet Hole is brave in its exposure of FGM and the culture around it and it feels like a starting point for a wider narrative. 

A play about female genital mutilation is never going to be an easy watch but I particularly was drawn to Bullet Hole to better understand the culture and tradition that supports it, particularly in a 21st-century Western context.

(L-R) Gloria Williams (Cleo) and Doreene Blackstock (Eve). Photo credit - Lara Genovese for Naiad Photography    (1)
(L-R) Gloria Williams (Cleo) and Doreene Blackstock (Eve) in Bullet Hole, Park Theatre.Photo: Lara Genovese for Naiad Photography

Gloria Williams' play is set in London and focuses on three women.

Aunt Winnie (Anni Domingo) is an African matriarch who follows and instigates the traditional practices; Eve (Doreene Blackstock) is a British African woman who has been cut but sits on the fence about its rights and wrongs and Cleo (Gloria Williams) is a young British African woman who has been cut and stitched is regularly assaulted by her husband and wants  a reversal.

Traumatised and broken

Cleo is sent to live with Aunt Winnie, where Eve finds her traumatised and broken. She becomes a sort of buffer between Cleo and Aunt Winnie having a foot in both camps.

Through their conversations, we learn of the physical and mental impact of FGM.

Continue reading "Review: Bullet Hole, Park Theatre - a brave exposé of the physical and psychological impact of FGM" »