That’s why the lady is…a man

October 23, 2013

Actresses just can’t seem to get a break in this industry. With the National and Gate theatres ageing roles up by a decade or so and The Lyric giving the plum parts away to the opposite sex, this week at the Galway Arts Festival a company whose dispensed with the ladies all together (on stage at least) will mount productions of Henry V and The Winters Tale. But before Zippo and bra should meet the question must be asked. Why aren’t the sisters doing it for themselves?

“Our companies ethos arose out of our very first production, which was also Henry V,” says Paul Hart, Associate Director of the excellent Propeller Theatre Company. “We had this idea of having a company of squaddies acting out the parts to cheer themselves up, using whatever props were at hand. Hence men would have to play the female parts.” There was a demand for that show to go out on tour and the aesthetic stuck. “So it was just a case of justifying it from production to production.” Does the initiative lie with the ladies? What’s to stop them being a lady M rather than the Lady M? “I think it does. In England we have had some wonderful all female productions that worked incredibly well. But there has to be work behind idea. You don’t do it just to do it.”

All their backstage staff is female and according to Dugald Bruce-Lockhart (Henry V) it makes no difference that it is men rather than women playing the roles. “You are acting, you are playing a character. You play the part as written, not as coutured.”

So perhaps the ladies should stop waiting for The Abbey to lead the way and actually show them that it can be done. There’s an all female Earnest being staged this week in Sweeney’s Pub, all be it stripped back to two performers. Perhaps the revolution is a foot.

Originally published in the Sunday Independent in July 2012


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