killology

‘There is an instinctive revulsion against taking a human life. And that revulsion lives in our hearts. And that revulsion is the best part of us. And that revulsion can be conquered’ 

Killology punches you in the face with every new death, every new torture method, every new possible scenario. The audience sit uncomfortably close to the stage where ghosts and men edge past each other, only occasionally illuminated by the light reflecting off their dark clothing. The whole room feels damp like if you sat in there too long your clothes and then your skin would fester and start to smell. I’m expecting a dystopian play that will really bring home the surreal and terrifying election result of the day before. That’s not really what happens. Instead, I cry because a fifteen-year-old boy steals a bike and drives in front of the wrong car.

Gary Owen said he picks at ‘mental scabs’, a phrase which I really can’t hear without my brain wanting to crawl in on itself, but it makes sense watching his new play at the Royal Court. It’s about fatherhood, boyhood, masculinity, imagination, death, grief, and the capabilities of the human race.

three characters

Alan; older, greying, Irish, mushy on the inside, a dad. Paul sleazy, not much going for him except his money, resentful, definitely not a dad. Davey child, he’s a child, he’s just a child, needed a dad, he’s a child and he’s dead. 

I want Sion Daniel Young to stay on stage the whole time. He plays Davey and when he talks to me, because god it really feels like he’s speaking to you and only you, I believe every word and I want to reach out and hug him. His elbows jut out and his lip quivers, heavy eyelids hang over staring eyeballs. He looks at me and I go cold. In the end, you find out he’s already dead and you know why it felt weird when he looked at you.

I think it’s about responsibility. Generational responsibility and parental responsibility but also about blame. Who is left alive and who is blamed and who is locked away? Just like the game, this play is a ‘deeply moral experience’. What is your stance on video game violence? Whether or not you have one, you’ll know less about your opinions but more about yourself when you leave the theatre. It’s pretty clean cut.

Right?

The scene directly before the interval, where Alan (Seán Gleeson) forces Paul (Richard Mylan) to watch a young boy tortured in an exact recreation of a level from Paul’s game, grips it’s cold hands around our neck and makes every muscle in your body quiver. You feel sickened, disgusted, angry, and yet you can’t help imagining it, can you? You can hear the sounds, the awful fucking sounds, but you don’t let that stop you imagining it. The lights flash on and I literally jump in my seat. After that, I will no longer love theatre unless it reaches down my throat and pulls my gut up and out of my mouth like that scene did.

During the interval, I hear a young girl say to her friend ‘I cried more about the dog dying than the person’.

That’s a bit fucked up. Isn’t it?

For most of the show, the three men talk about doing things, remember things, misremember things. It’s about memories and imagination so you’re not sure where or when you are most of the time. In that telling and retelling and making up there’s a comment about virtual reality gameplay. Because like Paul says, they aren’t really doing it. There’s a difference between reality and a game. There’s a difference between hearing about torture and death and actually seeing it.

Is there?

Killology makes your blood run cold like Sarah Kane makes the hair on your everywhere stand up. Gary Owen holds no prisoners and wipes the slate clean for a new age of intensely unapologetic writing. The game in Killology is the war in Blasted. You can ignore it but it will come for you.

This play is about when it comes for you.

The Edited Lowlights of My Country

My Country: a work in progress

For Clara Potter Sweet and Rufus Norris

 

I went into My Country: a work in progress with two assumptions. Number one, that I would either love it or hate it. Number two, that it was the play itself which was the work in progress, not out country.

Both were wrong.

The opening is kind of trite, a little gimmicky (I want to give it the benefit of the doubt but this doesn’t bode well) – “Britannia” or “Britney” as she is (mis)named, comes on stage with the house lights still on from a door in the back of the theatre. A woman behind me says to her husband “Oh shush, it’s started already, pay attention”. The audience are lulled into silence and Carol Ann Duffy’s words begin to be spoken. And they are unmistakeably Carol Ann Duffy – I’m thrown back to my GCSE English class where we told that she is the Poet Laurette and so she is the Best Poet.

With the lights up on the audience it’s clear that this audience is very specific – the average is probably sixty and a large majority are white. Maybe this is Warwick, maybe it’s the show. (I think it’s probably the show)

The rest of the ensemble begin to enter with their various ‘theme tunes’ changed with a remote pointed at the lighting box. As they enter I notice that they are mostly all white, except for one Asian woman. I did already know this would be the case as I read Charlotte Maxwell’s fantastic review. She addresses this issue far better than I ever will.

The lights finally go down and the audience get a real idea of the set which was very basic. School desks which remind of History Boys and Matilda are pushed into the centre. The pushing of the desks is also basic, and looks unrehearsed. There was very little done with the set (at the end the upstage screen lights up orange and the actors wander about behind it), so the words and performances should have been able to carry it. It might have been better to see it in a small black box studio, where the half empty theatre I was sat in would have felt cramped, in a good way. The moving of the desks prefaced the rest of the movement, which lagged behind the fast moving verbatim script. Polly Bennet (People, Places & Things, Pomona, nut) is cited as the movement director and yet I saw none of her undeniable talent translated on stage.

The verbatim script was good and did what it said on the tin, but it didn’t make me feel much. I was kind of just told what I already knew. That this country is a weird mishmash of racist assholes and conservatism and tradition. The comment that was made on the verbatim, whatever it was, came across as clunky and overworked. It was trying to be objective and yet I don’t think a leave voter would have felt it was a show made for them. (Should we be making shows for them? Would they even come and see them?)

The atmosphere was strange. One audience member loudly says “Boris” when Penny Layden did her (arguably wonderful, arguably overdone) impression of Johnson. An audience member also laughed loudly at a white man speaking as a Saudi Arabian. Three people gave a standing ovation, and some jeered (cheered? not sure)

It wasn’t all bad, okay, I liked the singing. I liked the songs. Not the recordings – the live singing of the songs. The rousing chorus made me feel more than the poetry did. The Irish dancing was also good, although I could sense not particularly skilled.

Ultimately, it was meh. Kind of considered not posting this review, but I think I need to stop writing reviews and then never posting them. (Maybe?) I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. It was just a bit boring. And it could DEFINITELY have been a work in progress show (I would have given some good and worthy feedback). Standing outside the theatre, the two (probably) oldest members of the audience walked out, saying “Well that was disappointing” and I really couldn’t have agreed more which seems ironic in the context of Brexit. The show was just an edited collection of lowlights (and occasional highlights) of the British public.

FOOTNOTE: They talked about Donald Trump in a Brexit play. I mean. Really.

Scotland, doing a bad Trump impression: “Fake News”

Britannia: “I love [Scotland’s] independence” 

(And because it was the NATIONAL Theatre they had to talk about the state of the NATION and talk about everyone on a NATIONAL scale about a NATIONAL issue of the NATION – this diss is stolen from Clara PS…sorry)

 

The Treatment

The Treatment
Written by Martin Crimp. Directed by Lyndsey Turner
Almeida Theatre

“Tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind.” – King Lear, Act 4, Scene 1

The Treatment at the Almeida looks and feels like the play I’ve been waiting to see my whole life. I’ve read a whole lot of Martin Crimp (although not this particular play) and his writing continues to illuminate new avenues of thought about culture, writing, authorship, and capitalism each time. Then combine that intelligent, buzzing language with an expertly lit, staged, and choreographed spectacle and the whole show takes on a new sense of urgency and agency. There’s running themes of taxis, travelling, bins, cities, sushi, and sex and I love it. The acting is slick but also quite purposely overt and self-consciously theatrical. Everything is seamless and so slick, I just want to relish every moment, but then it’s suddenly gone.

I think the reason I fell in love with the aesthetics of the show straight away was because Turner leads the audience to connect the images of each scene with references they know, or think they know. For me, that was my favourite films. She might have been referencing these in particular, or she might not have been. What she definitely is doing, is echoing the conscious referencing Crimp does in his writing.

The Japanese Restaurant

The framing of this scene from Kill Bill is reflective of the framing of Turner’s scenes in the Japanese restaurant in the show.

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The apartment

The apartment of a swanky and possibly sincere, but also very possibly lonely and sleazy and not sincere at all, man. It’s bathed in a purple glow, the block colours separating the room into thirds, cut in half by the white leather couch in the middle of the stage. I think it would smell the same as the hotel in Lost in Translation.

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The taxi

Turner’s use of framing encapsulates much of her vision for this show I think. The taxi scene in the first half is where she first begins to break out of the naturalistic staging we had before. We see into the front window of the taxi. The symmetry and the colour are like Wes Anderson

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Anne

Anne’s appearance in Act Two: her red dress, pale skin, and red cropped hair make for a striking contrast with the green wash Lyndsey overlays. She looks like Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

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So the aesthetics are referential of films we know and love (or love to hate). The colour scheme jars and blends as a kind of palatable juxtaposition.  Once I move past that, there’s Anne. A-n-n-e. She travels throughout Crimp’s works, reappearing most significantly in Attempts on Her Life. The character of Anne already feels like a reference in herself – she is already written, already assumed in other plays. I think every story that is told in The Treatment is significant: the three stages of corruption, the story of the artists, the story of the protesting, but I’m not sure. I certainly wasn’t sure when I was watching it and I’m even less sure now.

Then there’s New York – a city so famous and full of cliche it feels overdone before the play has even begun. A city that gives you a headache, always. I have a headache after the show. It seeps into you. New York is shown in the orange and the bins and the block colours. It all seems too obvious. What Crimp and Turner collaborate to do so well in this piece is acknowledge that referencing and then blow it apart.

Crimp writes one hundred different versions of the same story in one script. His writing is all about subjectivity and conflicting narratives and multiple perspectives and how all of that can give a million different angles on the same small situation. The Treatment feels like the epitome of that. It centres on telling Anne’s story, which then becomes Simon’s story, and then Andrew and Jennifer’s, and then Clifford’s, and then John’s, and finally Nicky’s as she becomes Anne. The whole show is just a fuckery of storytelling and lying and objectivity and perspectives (both in the set and in the writing). Not only does Anne’s story get mistold, but we are never sure which story is the real one, and so how do we know it’s ever mistold?

Then, we come back to the references. Another element of storytelling and of literature and art itself. Turner echoes Crimp’s referencing in her set, as I already said. Then you’ve got the textual references. The one that stands out most to me is the blinding (**doyagetit**) obvious, fucking in your face King Lear reference. Clifford has his eyes poked out with a fork – an act of revenge in a moment of Shakespearian drama. He wails on his knees, calling out into the dark. It’s almost too obvious. Then we get to the second act and there’s repetitions and suddenly we are in a subway station and Simon is repeating Anne back to her, referencing her words for his own use.  Referencing is about the stories, and it’s about being conscious of the process of telling and twisting stories, which of course is what The Treatment is really all about.

But then it’s a question of who owns the story. Shakespeare? Crimp? Anne? Turner?

The box at the end felt more real than any of the other settings, and yet it was in this place that the stories were most confused. The narratives still crossed and contorted, even in the face of the reality of the situation. In this final moment of realism, the audience are given a cathartic release – finally we see the story we have heard about for the whole show. And yet, it doesn’t sit right, at least not for me anyway. Does this mean the story was true all along? Or is the story only true now because of how it has been told before?

And then the last scene – the most abstract of all of them – is a moment of sheer nothingness. It feels metaphorical but I can’t quite scrape through all the subjective lenses the audience are faced with to find it. It’s literally the blind leading the blind at the end.

 

strangeness and love

nuclear war

When I walk in I decide to watch the show in the chair that looks like the one in my grandmother’s first house, in the corner of the dining room. I think the show will be dystopian, political, divisive. I cross my legs. I uncross my legs. People are watching me as they walk in, I’m watching them. We watch each other in the performance, too. The show wasn’t what I thought, in fact was an acute examination of grief and loneliness in a world of isolation and love.

burn a coffee on a stranger. have sex. speak to someone on the tube, don’t speak to someone on the tube, have sex. orgasm, don’t orgasm. switch on the light. drink milk. hide. grieve. miss. fold the duvet cover. don’t speak to someone on the tube. leave the underground. sun. sun. bright. tangerine. tangerine tights. mess. bricks. teacup, teacup, break.

The world of the play is big. By this I think I mean the physical space in which we all sit feels wide, high, bloated. There are huge gaping pieces of empty floor and wall. Only two rows of chairs line the very edges of the space. Mismatched and in keeping with the lamp and dressing table, the chairs are bolted to the floor. The performers watch us. We can’t really see them but we can see enough of them to know that they are watching us.

At the start of the show Maureen Beattie downs milk in a glass. She downs a further glass of water. Simon Stephens watches on. I can’t tell what he’s thinking and later we learn he hated it until today. I loved it, the downing of the water, it was the first moment I realised I loved the show.

The world is dance the world is noise is the size of the room is the colour of the lights.

Colour. I remember colour. The stage is red and everything is red. Beattie points out the yellow. Suddenly I see everything on the stage that’s yellow. Back of headphones and cigarette butt and lamp.

We follow a woman on a day. It’s a day any day, it’s seven years after a death. I want this to have happened over 45 minutes. Maybe she hasn’t even left her house and when she comes home at the end she’s really just leaving her room and we’re on a loop.

Maybe not.

There’s a lamp light in the middle of the room. It’s a carpeted room. I love the huge fuck off speakers dragged along the cream carpet. A long wire connecting to the lamp reaches from the middle of the space into a far corner. I’m scared the dancers will trip but they definitely don’t trip because Imogen is good she’s really fucking good. The movement contained, formed, outlined the words. (Radical for the Court? Maybe. Maybe a new iteration of exacting psychological human thought). Black coats, no shoes. Body morphs, writhes, eats. We’re confronted with destruction, orgasm, chaos.

Another thing I loved was the tights over the heads. You don’t see it at first. That’s the best kind of visual image because it makes you work for it. The performers stuff an orange in their mouths (is there a mouth hole in the tights??). They gorge on orange zest citrus. Correction, tangerine in mouth. That’s important.

Later there are ripped up pieces of orange on the floor. Mess and crumble and peel. What is left after grief? Perhaps it is the cathartic exhaustion after crying in public. Heaving cries, not just little tears. The mess, and the orange tangerine peel.

It’s near the end and now the world is a heptagon of bricks. A plant thrown down in the centre of the small smaller tiny world. The world is her arms the world is dark.

What nuclear war was, or what it seemed to me to be, was a cacophony of visceral feeling and experience. Sounds pretentious, probably is. Every part of the movement and words deeply cuts us, forcing its way into our peripheries and stretching our necks to far corners of the space. The four dancers cover their face with tights and we also feel the suffocation. Physically and emotionally. Suppressed by a grief that is at once all-encompassing and elusive.

I have mixed feelings which I don’t think comes across here. Maybe I’ll write another review in a month, or a year.

Also as I publish this Simon Stephens sits 10 meters away in the Royal Court bar.

Later, I speak to him and I’m so nervous I snap my metal ring in half. He tells me to keep writing and I get very emotional and it’s one of those things I know I’ll remember.

One Person Talks About Violence

Big Guns. Posh. Grounded. 

Three shows in two weeks. All of them about violence.

It’s somewhere around 1594 and a groundling at the Globe has just been sick over their only good pair of clothes. They are watching Titus and Andronicus and a guy dressed as a girl has just walked in with their hands cut off and tongue pulled out. It’s 2015 and an elderly lady has just fainted in the third row back at the National Theatre watching Cleansed. Theatre really shocks people. And that’s just the graphic stuff. Stage violence has had a long-standing history and it doesn’t move in a straight line. You can read about it on Wikipedia. The point is, violence and particularly violence on stage gets to us, to audiences, in a way that films, books, the news, doesn’t. In the three productions I saw, none of them actually showed any violence, or at least the one stage fight I did see I am preferring to block from my memory for now (we’ll come to that later).

Big Guns at the Yard Theatre, directed by Dan Hutton and written by Nina Segal, has an awesome, rock and roll, in-yer-face, super aesthetic opening image. Two girls sit in a carved out ledge on a stage slanted upwards. They’re wearing 3D glasses. It’s red, everything is red. There’s popcorn, there’s a hot dog, they sip pepsi. The play begins and we are taken on a path through some jaunty but slightly repetitive dialogue. It’s kind of Crimp, it’s kind of Churchill but it’s not really either. The actors act it which is perhaps not the intention here. Of the director or the writer, in my opinion. There’s a lot of blackouts. Like, a lot. And torches which is clever and there’s a chilling moment where the lights are off and an actor is speaking in the blackout, but then a torch shines on her and we see she’s not speaking at all. It’s a little unsettling. More than anything this play talks about violence. It talks about guns, pornography, technology, blogs, and well, I’m not really sure what else. There is a man in the room and he’s got a gun. We know that, we are told that, but isn’t that kind of…obvious? As a metaphor, as a threat, as a central image? Suddenly the actors are crying (fake crying) and standing right in front of us and the lights are on us and I feel overwhelming not shocked. Not thrilled. Not excited. I don’t think I really feel challenged either. I feel quite negative, about the world, about my generation (something I don’t enjoy feeling), about men with guns. But I’m not fired up. The bullets aren’t loaded yet and the trigger isn’t even close to being pulled. I really wanted to love this show and I did like it, I just don’t think it worked for me. I didn’t feel violated. That’s how violence should make you feel. Like your skin shouldn’t be attached to your body. Like you can’t remember when your heart wasn’t beating faster than it normally does. I was waiting for something that didn’t happen, and not really in a good way.

Saying that, I do have to credit Big Guns for being better than the show I saw most recently. Laura Wade’s Posh at Pleasence Theatre in Islington (it’s more like Holloway). It’s marketed as an all-female cast, that’s the selling point, that’s why I booked a ticket because I thought it might do something new. Although this was my first time seeing Posh performed, I do know the play a little and I was interested to see how the show held up with women in the central roles. Not well, apparently. As discussed on my twitter with Nastazja (@NastazjaSomers) the acting was good (particularly impressed with Gabby Wong, thought she carried the whole show) but the direction was confused and basic, there was no real vision for the all-female cast, it just felt like a half-hearted publicity stunt.  The gender bend was also a bit half hearted – were they women playing men or women (and if so why weren’t any pronouns changed). I saw why the two originally female roles weren’t changed, because seeing women berating and harassing other women is ‘creepy’ as my mother put it. After the first act I decided that it would be unbearable to watch a male cast perform this play. The leering, the constant bigotry, the disgusting sexual degradation of the female characters. But actually, I think it would also have been incredibly difficult to watch this play performed by white men because then the words become violent in a very different way. The most powerful men in the country are reflected here. What does that say about us? But then you put women in their roles and it has the potential to be expertly subversive. Sadly, it was not, and didn’t seem to want to advance women at all, really. The direction itself was lazy and I’ve seen it a thousand times. Strobe and slow motion choreography, didactic recordings of the play’s message, a very badly directed fight scene, all made for a show where the words were violent, no doubt, but the show? Not at all. I was in no way affected by this piece of theatre. And I really should have been. Edward Bond didn’t tackle censorship laws for this – he expects better, we all expect better.

Then there comes a type of violent theatre that shakes you. Like really fucking shakes you. And you are left with an empty stomach and no fucking words except, well, except nothing actually. I was left without language really. It’s taken me this long (two weeks) to come to terms with it. To feel like I could write a small bit about it. Grounded at the Gate was performed by the inimitable Lucy Ellinson and directed by Chris Haydon. Lucy is a fighter pilot. She stands in a pixelated, four-walled box. We can see her but she’s blurred. The lines are blurred around her. It’s loud, like really loud, and the disco lights in the floor bounce around. Lucy takes a sip of pepsi. Wipes her mouth. We’re back in Las Vegas, in America, in an army base. She’s controlling a drone. She wipes someone out. She wipes a lot of people out. We don’t see it, but we feel it. We feel it so hard it takes everything I have not to run out. Not to scream to her that it’s wrong. But then, it’s also real. Fear, carnage, and ponies racked the seams of the grey tone reality the fighter pilot stood in. I was sweating. The violence in Grounded comes not only in the bombs, the planes, the wars; it comes in her emotional trauma, her life force being sucked out, in the solid grey walls that box her in at the final moment. We are told of the violence that she creates, we never see it. We imagine it and it’s worse. We feel the violence she feels, we experience it with her, but she’s behind a screen, so the empathy is always artificial.

So, three shows that explore the violence of language, of modern day Britain, of the elite, of weaponry, of theatre. Perhaps it is unfair to compare them and actually it probably is so I’m not comparing them. Please don’t see this as a comparison. It’s an observation of how we talk about violence, and whether certain types of violence affect us more, and why that is. So, my friend Clara loves to tell me about her essays and I love when she tells me about her essays and in one she researched how slow violence really doesn’t affect us like immediate violence. So, climate change is a slow violence, that we can ignore, so we do – we go unaffected. Bombs being dropped in a film is immediate violence, we feel something, even if it’s not much, we feel something at least. I think what theatre must do is take the slow violence, the brooding unnoticed violence and make it immediate. Ask, why can’t you see this as a threat? Why can’t you see me as a threat? Theatrical violence is at its best when it threatens you, when it threatens your apathy. When you leave the theatre guilty. Or afraid. Or responsible. Or, hopefully, fired up.

 

a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun)

debbie tucker green’s decentralisation of power begins in her title. in her very authorship.

what must be grasped is that her writing is specific for black bodies in theatre. she writes that world because it is what she knows but also because it is a powerful political rebellion. yes this show could be performed by a white cast but really it shouldn’t be because that isn’t who it is written about or for.

tucker green remains an elusive figure in british theatre. her lack of interviews, scholarly investigation and profile often make her work seem impenetrable. in fact, it is much the opposite. the language is rhythmic and cuts off, perhaps not what we are used to in an age of television scripts and lingering shakespearian soliloquising, but it is more real than any drawn out monologue. this is how we speak. this is how she gives voice.

notably, there are written silences.

the silences are poetic just as the language is.

sometimes the silences say more. maybe they always say more.

tucker green’s work is so visceral, live, electric. it sparks and flicks. it bites. it bounces off the page into the mouths of the actors and out into the world. it is fire, it is passion, it is delicate. a profoundly follows three couples. inevitably intertwined, the structure of the stories is reminiscent of the three stoning mary narratives that neatly intersect at the final moment.

we sit on swivel chairs, separated into two sections and surrounded on three sides by a raised platform. the floor, walls, and seats, jutting out at perpendicular angles, are all the same blue-green tone. the whole set is a blank canvas, waiting to be patterned with the circles and runes drawn on throughout the evening by the six actors. i was entranced by merie hensel’s design. not only was the jerwood upstairs unrecognisable, the colour schemes worked beautifully. it was a live art installation cleverly masked as a theatre set. the chalk dust caked the actors’ hands, reminding us of the shadows that have followed them from previous scenes and from their lives before the scenes and the after, even if we don’t think about the after.

the acting is sharply placed. the ages of all the characters shift dramatically and some transform in front of us. we are confronted with a linear narrative that is presented through a structure that disrupts. the actors manage and control this eloquently, with grace and force. they are all standout performances. i am whisked away and yet we (the audience) are really all too present.

debbie is political without being overt. she changes the game while refusing to participate in it. she manages to be poetic without ever being wanky, something i am clearly yet to achieve.

 

[picture credit Stephen Cummiskey]

Why Are You So Intimidated by Equality (A Response to Dominic Cavendish)

Well, it’s late, I’m tired, and I have an essay which I’m putting off and I’m angry so I’m writing another post. This time it’s to Dominic Cavendish. He wrote an article in the Telegraph on the 23rd of February about how women are essentially stealing men’s roles. I don’t think that people I follow on twitter accepted the article in any way, but I want to respond because maybe one person, but almost definitely a lot more, will read the article and feel legitimised in their sexism, and that’s not okay.

I think the problem I have with the article (apart from the pretty blatant misogyny) is that Cavendish is really talking about two very separate issues, but melds them into one and in doing so basically shits on female actors. There is the issue of gender bending and how it artistically affects a show, and then there’s the issue of men being ‘elbowed aside’ as he calls it. Firstly, Anna How (@himalanna) tweeted that this article reminds her distinctly of a statistic which says that if there’s 17% women, men in the group think its 50-50. If 33% women, men perceive more women than men and I think that is essentially what Cavendish is struggling with when he asks women ‘to get their mitts off male actors’ parts’. Women are coming to the forefront of the theatre world, with the Royal Court leading the way with a female Artistic Director and putting on eight plays written by women in 2016 out of a total of thirteen, and some people are finding it hard to deal with. Institutionalised misogyny makes us all victims of devaluing women in theatre, and institutionalised racism means that minority actresses are even more devalued. This is slowly changing, but the change is really quite slow, and it’s only slowed down by articles titled ‘the death of the great male actor’. Male actors won’t die out because women are acting too.

It’s interesting that the problem of gender-blind casting usually only seems to be an issue when it comes to historical plays – people feel more protective of Shakespeare and Chekov. They don’t want roles like Hamlet and King Lear to be played by women because they were written for men – right? Well, yes but the female parts were also written for men, so the logic kind of falls apart after that.

Cavendish talks about a suspension of disbelief in theatre, but he uses it to counteract what he calls the ‘thought police’, whereas it seems to me he is being the particularly rigid and traditional one in this situation. Yes, theatre is about play and disbelief – so why does gender matter so greatly when an actor is performing? I was in a workshop with Tim Crouch, and he quoted Michael Craig-Martin’s ‘An Oak Tree’ saying ‘I’ve changed the physical substance of the glass of water into an Oak Tree…I didn’t change it’s appearance. But it’s not a glass of water. It’s an oak tree’. And then, he applied that to theatre – I’ve changed the physical substance of Tamsin Greig into Malvolia…I didn’t change it’s appearance. But it’s not Tamsin Greig. It’s Malvolia. Now I’m not even trying to pretend I came up with this – it was all Crouch – but it’s really quite powerful to think about that and then read the Cavendish article. Doesn’t it seem slightly…redundant now? Acting is about transformation and often gender-bending does come with a political comment, and if so, even better – it’s probably commenting on the state of the world more than your article ever will.