My Stage is the World

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive

Women on the Verge of a Heated Discussion

on November 22, 2014

LPWNow I would never have called myself a feminist, nor would I say I have any real interest in politics. Yet I was forced (well, not literally) to reconsider these two points of view after going to a talk at the ICA.

Part of this year’s Parliament Week, the discussion featured a panel of high profile female leaders in theatre and politics: actress Haydn Gwynne, Rosemary Squire OBE and Helen Goodman MP, chaired by Geoff Colman.

Now this doesn’t sound like something I would usually concern myself with, but I was invited by Grumpy Gay Critic to join him at the talk and chat with him on camera afterwards for ‪‎Fresh Off The Stalls – watch our video discussion here!

Parliament Week PanelThe talk was supposed to be a lively discussion about the role of women in film, television, theatre and politics, but it pretty much turned into a discussion about feminism (and women in theatre)!

However, this actually seemed quite appropriate given its connection to the forthcoming release of the West End musical of Pedro Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

Having studied Spanish at University, Almodóvar has always been a strong presence in my life but Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios was the first one of his films I saw – although Bad Education (La mala educación) remains my favourite… and not just because Gael García Bernal is in it – so obviously I can’t wait to see the musical!

Like Lorca before him, Almodóvar writes about strong, but often oppressed women. Lorca’s La casa de Bernarda Alba (a sort of forerunner to the Virgin Suicides) is one of few plays that features only female characters and I remember playing Adele and thinking how feisty she was compared to a lot of demure boring roles for females in a lot of English plays.

I’ve never really been concerned about women and their rights, equal pay etc. but having seen so many amazing Fringe productions written by women – A First World Problem by Milly Thomas is actually one of my favourite shows this year and one of just a few to receive a 5* review – I did start to wonder why men dominate the West Ende.

The panel were also quite concerned with this and although Chairman Geoff Colman didn’t ask particularly good questions, I found the whole talk fascinating and it’s incredible how much these three women have achieved. The world of politics is completely dominated by men and to some extent so is the world of theatre. Haydn Gwynne revealed that she’s only ever worked with one female director and although I’ve worked with quite a few, it is still quite a rarity.

So am I a feminist?

Interestingly, I left the talk torn between wanting to go home and write a play (did you know only one of the shows currently on the West End was written by a woman? Oh and by the way that show is The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie.), or work out how the hell I became an MP. Sorry Helen Goodman, but I would – obviously – want to be Shadow Minister for Culture.

Each of these women gave me a message to take away with me. Helen Goodman made me realise that I should get more involved with politics (although only the culture side, let’s not go mad); Haydn Gwynne revealed that she also thought being an academic was a more worthwhile profession than an actress; and Rosemary Squire emphasised that degrees have no bearing on your career – she also studied Spanish and now runs a global theatre empire!

So which of these women do I admire the most? I really couldn’t say but each of them has an enviable job that, if I perhaps put my mind to, I could also be proud to have achieved.

So look out men – us women are here to take over the theatrical world of arts and culture!

Video discussion for Fresh Off The Stalls:

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