I wanted to produce and direct Henry VI because I felt there was more to discover about the world we had created in the Roof Void of the Wales Millennium Centre and the character of Richard III. I became fascinated by the history which led to Richard’s reign – the Wars of the Roses. The ridiculousness of war, human behaviour and the responses to threat and conflict felt extremely relevant to modern day. Is it any easier now for a leader to advocate peace and disarmament than it was then for Henry VI?
I want to produce and direct plays that make us think about our world and our place within it. Shakespeare deals with timeless subjects that are both epic and personal and private. I want to challenge who Shakespeare is for, where and how it can be staged. I want to create different doors for more people to access it. I would like everyone to feel that Shakespeare, theatre and the arts generally belong to them. Which is why Omidaze is developing the Open Rehearsal Strategy. We took workshops and the actors mid rehearsal into ten schools in Cardiff where they rehearsed scenes with young people who may not otherwise access theatre or Shakespeare. We invited those young people into our dress rehearsals and our Omidaze Ambassadors have worked hard with the Centre to go into communities and include them in our process and the production itself.
And lastly – why all-female? Because when it comes to what audiences see and hear on stage, it remains overwhelmingly written, directed, designed and performed by men. If you don’t believe me check out http://www.tonictheatre-advance.co.uk/ which shows the stats and the research and concludes that if you always do what you’ve always done you will always get what you’ve always had. We have a strong tradition in the UK of men playing women across all forms of culture and yet not the other way. As children we play all roles and ignore gender. When we go to watch our children in school plays we happily accept blind gender casting. When and why does this become an obstacle in professional theatre? There is no reason I can see why women cannot play all the roles just as men did for many years (and still so)and do all the roles off-stage too.
There are no villains here. Simply many years of habit and long lists of experienced and talented professionals that are predominantly male and that requires time and energy from all decision makers to ensure those lists become 50/50. Gender equality is just one part of the picture. We need more equality across the board – class, race, disability. It is a question of justice. Power sharing. Art can help with that. And it will not happen organically by itself. We must all take responsibility and look around us to see who makes up our boards, our workforces and our teams. Whose voices are being heard? Male, pale and stale is no longer acceptable as the description of our decision makers and gate-keepers. All sections of society must see and hear role models throughout the cultural sector and indeed society.
Until February 20