Such Stuff Podcast

#SuchStuff s2 e4: International Women’s Day

  In the latest instalment of our Such Stuff podcast we are looking at how far theatre has come in the drive for equality and inclusion


International Women’s Day

Taking a look at our own work, and a wider look across the industry, we talk to brilliant women from across the theatre industry and ask: how far has theatre come in the drive for equality and inclusion, and how much further do we have to go? And what is it, right now – on and off our stages – that give us hope that by International Women’s Day next year, we will have pushed the conversation even further…

We hear from playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury, who just won the Susan Smith Blackburn prize, the oldest playwriting prize in the world with an all-female shortlist; Clare Perkins, who is returning to the role of Emilia in the West End, talks inspiring women and changing the world one play at a time; fight director Yarit Dor talks us through a career in a discipline that was until recently seen as typically masculine territory; Dr Farah Karim-Cooper, our Head of Higher Education and Research, takes us through the upcoming festival Women and Power, and why we need it now. And our very own artistic director Michelle Terry, talks about the huge structural changes we need across the industry, and how we’re getting the ball rolling here at Shakespeare’s Globe.

‘I know in my heart that there have been millions of women throughout history, but obviously their stories are not documented, are not written down. Who remembers them? Who remembers the small actions of a woman who stood up and said no? Who remembers the countless Rosa Parks stretching back over the last thousand years?’

— Clare Perkins

You can download the episode transcript or read it below.

Emilia, 2018. Photography: Helen Murray.


[Music plays]

Imogen Greenberg: Hello and welcome to another episode of
Such Stuff, the podcast from Shakespeare’s Globe.
Today on the podcast, we’ll be celebrating International Women’s

Taking a look at our own work, and a wider look across the
industry, we’ll be talking to brilliant women from across the theatre
industry and asking: why should we celebrate International
Women’s Day in theatre? How far has theatre come in the drive
for equality and inclusion, and how much further do we have to
go? And what is it, right now – on and off our stages – that give us
hope that by International Women’s Day next year, we will have
pushed the conversation even further…

We’ll be hearing from playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury, who just
won the Susan Smith Blackburn prize, the oldest playwriting prize
in the world with an all-female shortlist; Clare Perkins, who is
returning to the role of Emilia in the West End, talks inspiring
women and changing the world one play at a time; fight director
Yarit Dor talks us through a career in a discipline that was until
relatively recently seen as typically masculine territory; Dr Farah
Karim-Cooper, our Head of Higher Education and Research,
takes us through the upcoming festival Women and Power, and
why we need it now. And our very own artistic director Michelle
Terry, talks about the huge structural changes we need across the
industry, and how we’re getting the ball rolling here at
Shakespeare’s Globe.
[Music plays]
Stick with us to hear from five brilliant women, with stories of hope
as well as a rallying cry for the future…
[Music plays]
First up… I sat down with Michelle Terry, artistic director here at
Shakespeare’s Globe. I asked her about where the industry is
now, on this International Women’s Day, and how we should
reflect on the work that still needs to be done.
Michelle Terry: Basically the conversations around equality,
diversity and inclusion are not quite getting to the nub of what we
need to do. Because we can tick boxes, but when we talk about
inclusion, are we asking people to basically include themselves
into structures that we all recognise which are, have essentially
been formed by a certain type of person. So until those structures
are changed or until alternative structures and systems are in
place, we’re still putting women into structures that are designed
for a certain type or a certain way of working. You know we talk
about… of course we can change all our pronouns on our email,
we can do our diversity and inclusion workshops, we can do our
unconscious bias training. But unless we are really taking the time
to analyse how those systems came about, and where they’ve run
their course, and who they’re working for… like I’m not entirely sure
they’re working for anybody, whether you’re male or female… we’ll
keep tipping back if the language around how we talk about this
doesn’t change, if the modus operandi is still a particular way of
working, if we don’t interrogate the very things that we’re not even
conscious… so like, Bill Gates is doing this thing about the gender
in data. Algorithms, computer systems have been designed,
rightly or wrongly, by male ways of thinking. Once we measure
things, we can change things, but if our only way of measuring
things is inherently masculine because the algorithms and the
data programming have all been created by men, we’re reliant on
a system that still is perpetuating the very things we need to
analyse. When we look at our budgets for example, in putting on
a play, they’re still designed for able bodied, single, essentially
privileged people that can afford to not be paid very much… you
know, we don’t even financially interrogate the things we’re trying
to make the work from. So there’s just lots of things that will take
time, but when the machine keeps ticking and we gotta keep
talking about the bottom line, how do you find the time to have
those real, systemic conversations and an afternoon of
unconscious bias training, that is one step. But we have to know
that is a generational shift, and we see, like there are… I am of a
particular generation and I know that my two year old daughter, I
pray, isn’t going to be having some of the conversations that I’m
having, but it takes a level of being, of everybody being really
conscious and that’s exhausting. And we can be totally forgiven
on some days, just going ‘Anything for an easy life’ cos none of
these conversations are easy for anybody, and these are really,
really, tricky. And we look to structures to simplify them and codify
them, but those structures are the very things that we need to be
IG: As Michelle says, there are substantial, structural shifts that
need to happen… and real change is sometimes far slower than
we’d like. So what are we doing to contribute to these changes,
here at the Globe?
This International Women’s Day, the West End transfer of Morgan
Lloyd Malcom’s Emilia opens, which premiered here at the Globe
last summer. It has an all-female company telling a forgotten story
about a remarkable woman from history. Richard II has just
opened in our very own Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, and this
historic production is the first on a major UK stage with everyone
– the cast, the creatives, the stage management – all women of
colour. And this summer, our Globe ensemble will be turning our
accepted traditions of how we perform Shakespeare upside down,
not least with Hotspur, Falstaff and Prince Hal all being played by
Here’s Michelle on how these three productions are part of a more
seismic shift here at Shakespeare’s Globe…
MT: All-female ensembles is actually part of a bigger and broader
conversation for me, which I think is we have been… our resident
playwright gave us a canon which was not based on literalism, so
it’s not that we’re anti-literal, its just that the plays don’t require the
literal casting that other plays do. So it means, genuinely, because
he didn’t give character descriptions… whilst the characters may
be gendered or the characters may imply a certain type of person,
the actor is almost independent to the character so actually any
actor can, if the actor is good enough, play any role. So I feel like
we’ve been given the gift of an opportunity to put these plays and
put these characters into the mouths of people that you know, for
the last 100 years, we haven’t heard say the words. And partly to
complicate the world a bit, which I think is part of the role of art
and part of the role of theatre, but also to liberate the plays from
these very appropriated types or tropes that we see repeated,
particularly in Shakespeare. So all-female is one way, and actually
weirdly an all-female company creates a very neat concept that
houses a particular dialogue or debate. Whereas the ensemble
throughout the summer is a far more complicated version of that,
because it doesn’t have even that conceptual idea to cushion it. It
is just a group of multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural artists trying to
liberate the stories, I suppose, but the stories in Shakespeare are
pretty thin. But crucially, liberate the relationships between people,
so how you put down an appropriated idea of who a person is, and
therefore the relationship they may have with somebody else…
sort of a complicated, interesting way of doing that is just putting
it into unlikely, in inverted commas, or unlikely bodies.
Kirsty Rider who was in the Macbeth company said this amazing
thing at the meet and greet. And she’s early 20s, woman of colour
and she said ‘I may be really bad in this, but I’m here’. And that’s
really important that in a system that has so relied on the product,
we also now need to go back and go if we take care of the process,
the product will take care of itself. But if we’re so worried about the
outcome, we’re gonna drop the ball along the way and a lot of the
work we’re doing now is about the endeavour of the process. And
Emilia, Richard II, the ensemble is about how do we change
process? And that’s a long-form conversation rather than seeing
something have an immediate effect. But the fact that we’re still
having to talk about International Women’s Day means the
accumulative effect of all that work for all those years still means
we’re still having to… while we’re still having to pigeon hole time
around these debates means it’s just not in our DNA yet. And as I
say, I hope that just by an 8 year-old that came to see Richard II
last week… that’s her first experience of theatre, let alone
Shakespeare. So an 8 year-old, girl of colour… if we keep having
these conversations around the work, fingers crossed we’ll know
no different. Why is the world not possible to her? And not about
becoming an actress, but just that anything is possible to her.
That’s part of what the long-form conversation is and while people
are still not… I don’t know what the crew percentages are of
women in power, or women MPs… whilst we’re still not equal,
theatre has a job to show the world as we wish it could be, not the
world as it is, and while these things are still incendiary, we know
that the world hasn’t changed yet.
[Music plays]
IG: Next up, as you heard, Morgan Lloyd Malcom’s extraordinary
play Emilia is back… storming the West End, the all-female
company will be bringing to life the remarkable story of Emilia
Bassano… I sat down with Clare Perkins, who is one of three
actresses to play Emilia in the show, and who originated the role
here at the Globe last summer…
Clare Perkins: Emilia is about Emilia Bassano, who was a 16th
century poet. We believe that she was one of the first women to
be published in England. She’s been hidden from history. There
aren’t that many known facts left about her. But what we do know
about her is written from the point of men. And one man in
particular, Simon Forman, who was an astrologer… lot’s of people
consulted astrologer’s in those days. He happened to keep a diary
of almost everyone that came to visit him and so he has… there
are some facts about Emilia in his book, in which we know she
was a contemporary of Shakespeare, that she was known to
Queen Elizabeth, that her father was a court musician in
Elizabeth’s court, that she was of Italian descent. Not in the book,
but in other places, it’s been mooted that she was possibly of North
African descent as well. So that’s who Emilia Bassano is, but
history has left us with a very one sided view. If you look for who
she is, what you find is… yeah, not that complimentary and doesn’t
paint a true picture of a woman who was, basically, a radical
feminist poet. You know, when you read the bits of poetry that
have been left behind, they are quite amazing. Looking at history
from this viewpoint, looking back, you may not believe or you may
not have thought before that women were quite as radical and
having the same thoughts that we have today basically about
being stifled and constricted in a male world.
IG: So you were in the company last summer at the Globe… what’s
it like to return to this role?
CP: At the Globe, we didn’t know how the play was going to be
received and it was just amazing last summer. I mean it was the
heatwave, it was my first time at the Globe. So to return, to get the
chance to do it again. Cos everyone was saying is it coming back,
when is it coming back? You know there’s been a lot… it’s funny
to do a play that members of the public stop you on the street for.
You know, often that’s if you do TV or something, so its testament
to the power of the story, the timeliness of the story and maybe
the need for these stories about women that you know, we need
to know. We know about the suffragettes, but before that, that
there were women fighting before that, and I’m sure… well, I know
in my heart that there have been millions of women throughout
history, but obviously their stories are not documented, are not
written down. Who remembers them? Who remembers the small
actions of a woman who stood up and said no? Who remembers
the countless Rosa Parks stretching back over the last thousand
years? So knowing that that hunger exists out there, it’s just great
to have a chance to do it again?
IG: How much have you been stopped in the street?
CP: It was just weird, because people would go ‘Um, excuse me?’
and I’d always think that they were going to talk about Eastenders
or this other soap I was in Family Affairs, and then they’d go ‘Were
you in Emilia?’ And as soon as people say… as soon as you say
yes, I mean literally women want to give you a testimonial. They
want to say how much it moved them, how much they want it to
come back, how much they want to bring their sister, their mum,
their aunty, their school class. Yeah, I mean its heartening and it’s
great, because I love theatre, and I just feel like ‘Yes!’ Anything to
get more people into the theatre, to get more people watching
theatre and for people to find out yes there is theatre our there
that’s relevant for you is great. And also for it to be retained in
people’s memories. It really, really moved people in a way that I
think we didn’t expect. I mean a lot of its quite funny, and we know
a lot of its relevant. You know you could hear people enjoying it,
and then people wanted to stay around to talk about it, to talk
about how it affected them. So it’s absolutely brilliant to know we
can still do that in this day, the days of swiping screens and
continual Netflix and whatever that people will come to the theatre
to be moved in a particular way, and also to move women in a
particular way at this juncture in history is fantastic. Because I
think you can maybe not influence popular opinion, but you can
make people think and hte best way of making people think is
making them think not necessarily about what htey already know
about, about things that they didn’t know, and making them think
differently about things that they thought they knew, and I think
that’s what the play Emilia does.
IG: I think we all had read the play and were expecting it to be sort
of bold and all the rest of it, but it really had a massive effect on
CP: Yeah and people have talked about the Times Up movement
and the Me Too movement, but I personally, I think it’s got more
to do with a sense of injustice. The world seems to be becoming
massively unfair. Politicians are speaking for us, and I mean us as
in the working class, not necessarily just women, and they don’t
really know what we want as we’ve seen through Brexit and other
things. I think people are feeling unheard and obviously there’s
been a growing women’s movement for a couple of centuries now,
where women are not just feeling unheard, we know we’re
unheard, we want our voices to be heard. There are lots of
movements towards equality in terms of diversity, in terms of
gender, in terms of yeah feminism I suppose, yes. So I think there
is within this feeling of injustice, people want to be empowered,
they want to be empowered, they want to know they can speak
and I think we all love not necessarily a heroes story, but a story
where somebody who maybe feels quite insignificant and who is
working against the odds manages to make a difference, even if
it’s a small difference. And the fact that Emilia’s story, she made a
different, she did write those poems back in those times, and now
there is an emergence of her, so it means her difference is being
amplified now. So I think people want to feel now I can make a
change and the change will mean something. Cos you know some
people go, ‘Oh it’s not worth it, it’s not worth going on marches, it’s
not worth… cos everything just stays the same’. I think just the fact
that Emilia was on, just the fact that her story has re-emerged, and
the fact that that book is there, you can buy her book of poetry
now. I just shows we do have power. Also Emilia worked with a
group of women so you know, if we work together… it’s a story of
hope, I suppose. And I think we all need to hear that. You know,
at a time when Trump is considering reversing Roe vs Wade, I
think women really need to know that we can get out there, we
can get angry, and that our anger is not pissing it in the wind, to
put it one way. Or not like a release of energy, releases of energy
can engender more energy and can keep rolling and can actually
take on a movement of its own, that anger. That’s why its important
and that’s why, in that way, it did just touch people and from the
conversations that I’ve had with people, that’s what I feel it gave
people. Yeah, hope.
[Music plays]
IG: The stories we choose to tell on our stages are such an
interesting marker of where we are as an industry. The Susan
Smith Blackburn Prize is awarded annually to women who have
written outstanding plays for English-speaking theatre. This year,
we had the honour of hosting it here at Shakespeare’s Globe, and
I took the opportunity to sit down with this year’s winner, Jackie
Sibblies Drury. Her winning play Fairview, will receive its UK
premiere at the Young Vic this Autumn. So what can UK
audiences expect from it, and why is it important to have allwomen shortlists for prizes?
IG: So, first of all, congratulations.
Jackie Sibblies Drury: Thank you.
IG: So for UK audiences, Fairview is comign to the Young Vic later
this year.
JSD: Yes.
IG: So could you just tell us a little bit about the play?
JSD: Yeah… I’m sure… well it’s oddly a weirdly play to describe
just because a lot of it… there are sort of twists and turns in it. But
ultimately, I think it’s a sort of comedic drama about a black family.
But I think that it’s also… ultimately, the play is about theatre and
about the act of watching, and what happens to black bodies in
space when they’re watched by white people.
IG: The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is an all-female shortlist. Do
you think it’s interesting to sort of look at everyone who’s
shortlisted this year, and see that as a body of work by female
writers, and what sort of that might say about where the theatre
industry is at?
JSD: Yeah, absolutely. I think that there’s something interesting…
and of course, like, I wasn’t necessarily familiar with all the plays,
especially with some of the plays that were here and I’m living in
America. But when you sort of take them as a whole, it’s
interesting that they’re not all quote unquote women’s plays? That
there’s like an incredible diversity of opinion, of perspective, of
subject matter, of approach towards creating theatre within that
group of people and that so many women are doing it so diversely
and so excellently feels exciting.
IG: So with things like the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and
International Women’s Day, we carve out spaces where we
recognise and give women space and that’s really important but
on the other hand we balance that with you know, wanting the
work to be appreciated on its own merit…
JSD: Yeah…
IG: … because it’s a good play, not because it’s a play by a
JSD: Right.
IG: How do you sort of balance that and where do you sit on that?
JSD: I mean it was weird… the ceremony itself was really lovely
and all of the finalists, we all gave these speeches and it was sort
of like brilliant woman saying something like funny and heartfelt
and meaningful and thoughtful after… it was just sort of like how
many amazing [laughs] short speeches can happen in one
evening. It’s like genuinely shocking where you’re like I can’t take
another like incredibly specific and well-articulated and meaningful
moment. Like my heart and my brain can’t… I’m gonna explode. It
did feel very celebratory and so much so that you sort of for a
moment forget that the reason that the prize exists is because
women’s work is always undervalued? And so it’s this weird
combination of like fellowship and mutual admiration and respect,
balanced with sort of a history of inequity and deprivation. And it
is a sort of like uncanny feeling, where you sort of… I mean, being
American separate but equal is like not something that inspires…
[laughs] warm, fuzzy feelings? And so you sort of don’t want to
ghettoise based on their identity, but then being with other people
that share your identity can be really uplifting. So it’s sort of a
Catch 22 I guess, in a way.
IG: It’s been quite a sort of tumultuous couple of years in the
entertainment industry and the theatre industry. And I’m sort of
thinking about how things have changed since you’ve been
working in the theatre industry and what gives you sort of hope for
things continuing to change.
JSD: Yeah.
IG: Obviously you sit in a slitgjly different position because your
perspective is much more of the US than the UK…
JSD: Yes.
IG: But I was just wondering if you had any thoughts on that.
JSD: I guess, or something that I feel like people are talking about
in the US a lot and I wonder if the conversation is similar here, is
in both theatre and film and TV is that a lot of experimental work
is being done and it’s being done by people of colour. And like sort
of like traditionally sort of excluded minorities, and women also.
There’s something that’s like exciting, or it is sort of maybe
because like a traditional sort of straight forward narrative tends
to be like a white, male perspective, that like people that have felt
excluded from that are trying to break into new forms. And so that’s
really inspiring and exciting that it’s not just having diversity of
storytelling that’s sort of bowing to this like sort of Aristotelean
rising action, falling action, linear way of… it’s sort of inserting
different sorts of stories into that linear narrative. But it’s also like
trying to figure out different ways of articulating and expressing
ideas. So like that gives me a lot of hope, and sort of making
storytelling different in theatre versus film versus TV and not
having them all try to echo each other. And so that’s been exciting
to talk about, and feels really hopeful…
[Music plays]
IG: Whilst we shift the stories we tell on our stages, its important,
as Michelle said earlier, that we remember what’s going on off of
our stages, and behind the scenes. There are a number of
backstage disciplines that have been traditionally overwhelmingly
male, not least fight directing. I sat down with Yarit Dor, fight
director on Richard II, to talk about how the industry has changed
since she started working in it, and how the work she is doing only
gets more and more interesting…
IG: Can you tell me a little bit about how you got into fight directing
and into the theatre industry?
Yarit Dor: Well funnily enough it actually… fight directing started
from the Globe. So I came to London back in 2005 to do dance
studies and in the weekend I decided, well I like the Globe, so I’m
going to volunteer as a steward. So I volunteered and as a steward
I had to watch over this ramp for Coriolanus. And I think I saw that
show probably like 20 times. And the fight started on the stage,
went down to the ramp and back up the stage, so I saw the fight
so many times that I thought ‘Huh, that’s choreography, that’s
pretty cool stuff. I wanna do that!’ And then I looked for stage
combat class, I started taking classes and then I just continued the
training, became an assistant, became a teacher, started getting
fight directing jobs from my fight masters, that they’d pass jobs
that they couldn’t do and then I started getting jobs by myself. So
yeah weirdly enough, it started here. Yeah and now I’m working
here as a fight director.
IG: How common is it to have female fight directors in the industry
in the UK?
YD: Now there’s more. I mean in the past, at least from what I
know, it sort of started with Alison De Burgh, she was the first
female fight director if I’m not mistaken. And then we had Kate
Waters, which is still around and RC Annie. So there are several
female fight directors now. It’s becoming more popular, in the
States there are many more, so I think in the UK we’re kind of
catching up which is good. And I think since the Me Too
movement, I feel like there is more of a chance for female directors
now to get on board, it’s starting to move out of ‘Oh this is a male
domain’ which is really nice. Most of my first jobs I got because I
was a female fight director. A lot of the scenarios were male and
female domestic violence fight, and I was mainly brought in to help
the actress weirdly enough, although that was never fully spoken.
And it’s funny because usually it’s the other way round, the male
actor feels very uncomfortable because they want to make sure
their co-actress feels comfortable with whatever they’re doing. So
it’s funny how you kind of get boxed really early on as a female
fight director, and it’s nice here at the Globe that I’m also being
given fights that now have weaponry, which I felt like a lot of the
male fight directors were brought in many years ago for fights that
have weaponry and now more and more, the female fight directors
are getting a chance to do that as well and it’s kind of moving away
from ‘oh let’s get a female in just to do the unarmed combat, that’s
a bit domestic violence, or characters that don’t quite know how to
fight’. It’s getting rid of that taboo, that weapons means masculine
and therefore means male. And yeah it’s nice to be able to just be
in the room for your own sake.
IG: So talking about some of the sort of, I guess barriers you were
facing of being sort of side-lined into domestic and things like
that… yeah what kind of barriers do you think exist that might, you
know either in the initial phases of getting into it, or once you’re
underway in your career, might exist for women that don’t
necessarily exist for men?
YD: I think there is issues of power dynamic within the room and
directors allowing themselves to hand control over to the fight
director. And sometimes I do come out thinking, ‘Wow if I was a
guy, they would be more willing to hand over control’. But maybe
I’m wrong. I do feel like sometimes as a short lady, as a
Mediterranean Israeli lady, as someone that looks much younger
than their actual age, some people read me as extremely nice and
cute, whereas I just want to go in and do the job, basically. So
there is a sense of gender politics, I think still connected to it.
Whereas with other directors, it’s the complete other way around.
I’ve had directors that will literally like ‘the room is yours for X
amount of time that you need it’ and a sense of collaboration, like
a tennis match, you bounce kind of ideas off of the actors, off of
the director, off of the movement director. Sometimes I do come
away thinking, ‘Hmm is this feeling difficult because of me being a
woman?’ or ‘If I was a tall, chunky, martial arts dude, would it be a
bit easier?’ I think that question is probably going to be all the
IG: And working in an all-female company on Richard II, obviously
you don’t have that issue, because everyone’s a woman…
YD: Yeah [laughs]. And we don’t feel like women! Do you know
what I mean? We’re just there doing it. It’s been really nice to work
with this company, and it’s really nice to be in a room with two
other women and not trying to make them look male. Do you know
what I mean? There’s this… sometimes when we think of fight, we
think of over-physicalisation. Everything is big, and has this kind
of masculine energy and I’ve been told off once by my own teacher
saying ‘Why are you fighting like a dude?’. And I was like ‘Oh, I
never thought of that’. But Sarah and Indra have this feminine way
of moving that is also menacing, that is also strong, energetic, kind
of sparky and full of rage when needed, and it doesn’t come across
as ‘oh this is female and this is male’, but it’s just two characters
really trying to get at each other, so they’re just retaining the story
without having to prove a certain physicality if that makes sense.
IG: Things have changed since you got into the industry… there’s
more women around, the Me Too movement that you spoke
about… what gives you hope for things changing more in future?
YD: Well I think the Me Too movement in general has initiated the
necessity or the urgency of necessity of equality, and I hope that
it doesn’t actually go backwards now. It is sometimes difficult as a
female fight director to work against a male fight director and I’ve
had a couple of issues of bullying if I may be straightforward about
it, within my own circle. So you know, having to go through that,
and kind of being… you know what, the industry does feel like it’s
changing, it’s opening it’s doors, not only to a different gender but
also to different style of performers, to diversity, to inclusion and
let’s hope we don’t go back on that. And I don’t think it will… I think
we’re… and especially Michelle Terry and the Globe are kind of
piling through this new way of thinking of ‘what is Shakespeare
nowadays and who do we tell that story to, and how can everyone
see someone on stage that also relates to them?’ So I don’t think
it’s going to disappear. We won’t let it.
IG: And there is this sort of difficult balance between, like you said
wanting to be in the room and do the work and be appreciated for
the work that you do, and I’m sort of aware as we talk that I keep
being like ‘what’s it like to be a female fight director’ and I’d never
sit down and say ‘what’s it like to be a male fight director’. How do
you think we find that balance between sort of having the
conversations that we need to have, but also being able to do the
work because we deserve to do it, because it’s valuable…
YD: I think right now we’re asking about female vs male because
of the Me Too. I do hope it will in essence stop once we kind of
have that sense of equality, and I think it’s getting there. I do know
from colleagues that are male fight directors that it does feel
harder now. There’s a lot of questions regarding consent in the
room, there’s a lot of questions about demonstrating with an actor
or an actress. And sometimes I need to reconsider myself, if I don’t
have an assistant in the room, how do I show or explain or
demonstrate certain moves with a female or a male actor without
making them feel uncomfortable, and it’s a juggling act. I think
each project and each moment is like a new exploration of like ‘oh
how are we going to do this.’ Do I step out and do it on an invisible
person? Do I make sure my assistant is there? Or do I
communicate enough with the actor to make sure I have levels of
consent before I place my hands anywhere and vice versa so
we’re both safe. And I think male fight directors probably have
even more of that now because of the Me Too movement. So yeah
I think there is a gender shift at the moment, but I think that
challenges our practice and how we do things, and by that we’ll
actually get better, both female fight directors and male fight
directors in the room and we’ll find new ways of working within the
level of respectful practice that we’re trying to instil.
[Music plays]
IG: We want to make sure the conversation keeps moving here at
Shakespeare’s Globe. Whilst we celebrate and honour
International Women’s Day, it’s not a conversation we want to
confine to one day of the year. So, this summer, we’ll be
programming the Women and Power festival. I caught up with Dr
Farah Karim-Cooper, head of higher education and research here
at the Globe, to ask why women and power, why now, and what
she hopes it can achieve.
Dr Farah Karim-Cooper: The Women and Power festival is
designed to ask questions about women and leadership, in all
sorts of areas. So we’re interested in the arts and culture, we’re
interested in politics and society, and we’re interested in education
and academic studies. And obviously in the last couple of years,
conversations have exploded about the role of women in society
and whether or not women have access to power, and how much
access to power we have. So it’s this relationship between women
and power specifically that this festival is interested in.
We’re having this conversation now because of the relationship,
the precarious relationship between structures of power and
women. So we see in some parts of the world, women not having
gained power at all, we see in some parts of the world women’s
power being taken away from them as we speak. And I think
there’s a lot of fear out there about women having power, but
actually what women want is equal access to power and I think it’s
those conversations that we need to have here. And it’s important
at Shakespeare’s Globe I think because we are interested in
particular in what theatre and art making can do to contribute to
those conversations.
So we’re going to have some platform events where we invite
female directors to come in and talk about what it means to direct
theatre in the 21st century as women, as women of colour, we also
want to have a panel event that discusses politics and activism,
and who these women are that are sort of on the front lines of
society at the moment. And then we’re going to have a one day
symposium which just examines women and leadership really
quite intensively. So we’re going to be looking at the relationship
between women and leadership in culture, in art, in politics, in
education specifically as well. And what the imbalances are
between I suppose the different genders.
The kind of impact we are hoping this women and power festival
will have is getting people to talk, getting people to think about
these questions about the role of women in society very critically
instead of just sort of skimming the surface of social media and
picking a side. It’s really looking at the grey areas. What does it
mean to be a woman today when we are faced with all of these
struggles and imbalances? So really it’s about getting people to
talk and ask more questions, maybe even put on more events, but
we just need to keep talking about it.
Art and theatre is about creativity and I suppose, they’ve been
domains that have been male dominated and women have had to
elbow their way into important positions: taking over theatres,
deciding content, curating museums, all those kinds of things.
Those have been in the domain of men and I feel like the potential,
particularly for theatre, is basically exploding a conversation that
women are actually determining, right? So what kinds of
performances are we going to see, who’s stories are we gonna
tell, are we always going to tell the same old stories that have been
dominating society for hundreds of years, and I think when women
come into the scene, they start to provide alternative narratives
and ideas that actually propel more creativity and that’s really
[Music plays]
IG: That’s it for International Women’s Day here at the Globe, but
until next year, we’ll be keeping the conversation going. You can
catch Richard II in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse until 21 April.
You can see Emilia in the West End until 15 June. The Women
and Power festival will be at the Globe from 13 – 17 May, and we’ll
be announcing details of the events shortly. And our Globe
Ensemble will be performing Henry IV Part 1 or Hotspur, Henry IV
Part 2, or Falstaff, and Henry V, or Harry England, from 23 April –
11 October. All of our productions are supported by events and
discussions, so see our website for more details.
You’ve been listening to Such Stuff with me, Imogen Greenberg,
along with Michelle Terry and Dr Farah Karim-Cooper.
To find out more about Shakespeare’s Globe and what’s on, follow
us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
We’ll be back with more stories from Shakespeare’s Globe so
subscribe, wherever you got this podcast from.