So, of fthe back of Nicola’s excellent resource recommendation: ‘All Change Please’ I decided to check out Lucy Kerbel, the work of Tonic Theatre and delve deeper into the world of gender-equality (or lack of it) in theatre.
Interestingly, before dedicating some self-study time to this, I was side-tracked by THE INTERNET (It’s a blessing and a curse) and I ended up procrastinating on Facebook. As I scrolled through, I saw an article titled ‘7 Monologue N0-Nos’ Always interested to learn what others have to say about auditions and monologues etc, I clicked on the link and read the article (See link below)
Never in my life have I read such utter drivel! Apart from the fact that virtually all of the advice was completely out of touch and inaccurate. I was horrified by the writer’s fifth tip:
Don’t get clever.
“It isn’t always smart to be ‘clever,’ ” Howard says. “A woman who comes in and says, ‘I’m going to go do “Hamlet” ’—well, when are you ever going to do ‘Hamlet’?
This made me so angry! This Howard chap should be ashamed of himself! And in addition to going to see ANY of the Smooth Faced Gentlemen shows that I discussed in my last post, he should also purchase a copy of ‘All change Please’ by Lucy Kerbel. Immediately!
I am only a few chapters into this book, but I am already inspired by work that Tonic Theatre and Lucy Kerbel has instigated. This book is not an instruction manual on how to generate change, instead it challenges the reader to consider their own individual role within it. It prompts individuals to rally together, to drive in the same direction and to work with each other collaboratively to achieve real visible and meaningful progress.
“…if we are going to achieve proper – and do it in the most joyful, imaginative, thorough and effective way possible – that will require a whole range of brains on this and a whole range of approaches to it”
“Working together on the shared goal of achieving greater gender equality is like collaborating to put the most brilliant production on stage”
Lucy Kerbel – All Change Please
It really is about collaborating! Sharing ideas and engaging with other minds to tackle the problem. In the book Kerbel talks about initiating small actions that can generate big changes. She cites the 2015 introduction of the 5p plastic bag tax as a fascinating example of how a huge cultural shift can take effect. Although, far removed from the issue of gender equality in many ways. The conscious shift that charge had on an everyday and an unquestioned ritual, is exactly the kind of shift that needs to be put in the head of those involved in the collaborative process of theatre-making. What long-term impacts will there be if I continue to disengage with something that is unethical? What are the benefits of engaging with this change? How does this make me feel? etc
Some of the interesting small actions that Lucy Kerbel and Tonic Theatre have taken, have included: publishing a book that celebrates work by accomplished female artists that extends beyond the obvious ‘100 Great Plays for Women’ is an index of work that provides a cabal of exciting work to theatres and theatre-makers that have traditionally used the excuse of having a lack of available material as a reason for not depicting the lives and experiences of women on stage. The company has also championed new writing through a program called ‘Platform’ this exciting initiative commissions new work that places women centre stage. Once published the work is disseminated amongst schools, colleges and youth theatres. This small action and shift in practice, gives young women a platform to shine, grow and develop. It also tackles some of the more deep-rooted problems in society and educational that leads young women to believe that there aren’t opportunities for them to be placed at the centre of drama.
Rather than simply staging productions that champion equality, the company focuses more on working with big players in the industry such as: The National, Southwark Playhouse and The Tricycle (To name a few) to coach them towards implementing better practices and strategies with the issue. In the six years since the company has formed, these small actions have ALL contributed towards big changes in the industry and whilst, by their own omission, that there is still much work to be done, Tonic Theatre can claim to have made a colossal impact thus far.
As a stakeholder in change, I’m interested in reflecting upon the small changes I can make as a theatre-maker, as an educational practitioner and as a member of society. Again, I am looking forward to collaborating with my peers on the advanced module and reviewing how we can all work together in addressing some of the woeful inadequacies that societies everyday rituals have normalised. I’m also excited to investigate the possibilities of staging a Platform commissioned piece of work at the college I work at in the next academic year!