Globe stages first play written by a woman
Four hundred years after death of Shakespeare, feminism makes an entrance
The Bard is well-known for penning some of the strongest female roles the stage has known, which his company of male players gamely enacted while dressed in drag.
Yet no female playwright had – until now – written a drama for the Globe Theatre. Now, nearly 400 years after Shakespeare's death, feminism has finally made its stage entry at the riverside theatre in London, after Nell Leyshon was named as the first woman to write a play for the vast circular stage.
Ms Leyshon will stage Bedlam, a drama based on the lunatic asylum in the 18th-century, in September. She acknowledged that women had been forced to "prove they can write for such large spaces". "It's a bit belated on the one hand," she said. "Even though a lot of plays have been written by women through the ages."
Dominic Dromgoole, the theatre's artistic director, said the under-representation of women on stage had "been a problem" for theatres.
"There has been a lack of women in theatre as a whole. By and large in history, there are plays by men and about men, with some very extraordinary exceptions. What is great now is the new generation of excellent female playwrights coming through – Lucy Prebble, Polly Stenham and Nell Lyshon – who are redressing the balance," he said.
Mr Dromgoole had, he added, been trying to make this happen ever since he arrived at the Globe four years ago and the "new writing" strand was first launched.
"Ever since I came, I have been looking for a female playwright, not through any kind of positive discrimination, but because some of the best playwrights out there, and the most exciting new voices, are women. I worked with them while I was at the Bush Theatre, and at the Oxford Stage Company. I have asked other female playwrights before but they said 'no' because the (theatre) space didn't work for them," he said.
Ms Leyshon, who has previously written dramas for the Hampstead Theatre and The Lyric, in Hammersmith, draws a parallel in Bedlam between the thuggish, alcohol-reliant culture of the 18th-century, which when the play was set, was undergoing a "gin epidemic", and today's binge-drinking society.
"We always sanitise the past but I wanted to write about this period in history when there was a gin epidemic, and when you'd be frightened to go to a West End theatre on your own on a Friday night for fear of being stabbed or mugged," she said.
Her play is on a forthcoming programme which includes a bold interpretation of Shakespeare's Macbeth by Lucy Bailey, whose graphic and violent dramatisation of the Shakespearean tragedy Titus Andronicus four years ago not only led to great critical acclaim but also to scores of people fainting at every performance, with a regular two or three being carted off to hospital with shock. "(Macbeth) is bound to be horrendous (bloody)...it goes with the territory," he said.
The Globe will also present a play that offers a radical reappraisal of the beheaded Queen of England, Anne Boleyn, written by Howard Brenton, who will show her as a "sexually explosive woman" who was no mere victim or manipulator as she has previously been depicted, but a key player in "making the Reformation stick in England".
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 2 Tower Bridge glass walkway 'smashed' by night-time visitor dropping bottle of beer
- 3 Anti-gay hate preacher accidentally tweets 4,000 followers cartoon clip of him 'confessing' to be a 'homosexual sodomite'
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Christmas 2014: The three most intriguing celebrity panto appearances
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Beyonce '7/11' music video: Star bounces on bed and films daughter Blue Ivy in lo-fi homage to viral video
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'