So, where are we? This week, I managed to (finally) assign scenes and speeches to performers in Not Just The Companion – the evening that Cast Iron Theatre is presenting for International Woman’s Day at the DukeBox Theatre – and that’s quite enough words in bold font for one paragraph, thank you very much. If I haven’t explained before, the idea behind Not Just The Companion is reasonably simple – there will be a group of performers, all female, delivering scenes that are traditionally, iconically, male. While we don’t intend to get too political about it, and simply deliver an evening of drama and comedy that is entertaining, the night is, by the very nature of its existence, a political statement: without getting too deeply side-tracked by the figures (in this blog entry, at least) it remains true that men are far better represented on stage and screen than women. It may be too combative (while somewhat true) that all the best parts go to the boys, while generally the women have to play wives and girlfriends. That’s not happening 100% of the time, but it happens often enough for it to be a real problem. It happens often enough that characters like Rey (Star Wars) and Furiosa (Mad Max) become noteworthy purely because they exist – the very fact that they are front and centre of a movie is somehow worthy of mention. In 2016, that’s depressing.
Not Just The Companion isn’t anywhere near a redressing of that balance, but it’s at least a smudge on the ledger – a response. A reminder that ‘male’ does not have to be the default casting, the default character. So much so that you can take a part written for a male – sometimes specifically for a male – and have it performed by a woman, changing nothing more than gender pronouns (and on occasion, not even that much). We’re very excited about what the evening will bring. At the bottom of this blog entry is a link for the facebook page for Not Just The Companion.
Staying with Cast Iron, I’ve been putting a lot of work this week into casting Cast Iron 7. In truth, it’s not actually the seventh show we’ve put on, but we haven’t numbered our Halloween and Christmas specials, as well as any of the other one-off shows we’ve curated. This Cast Iron will be part of Hove Grown, a new writing festival which will be in its first year for 2016. Many people will be delivering their own shows, workshops and plays in the festival, which is brilliant, beautiful and bountiful .. and means that a lot of the supremely talented people I had intended to cast in Cast Iron 7 simply aren’t available. It has meant that I’ve had to switch a few things and scripts around, and some plays are going to get shunted to the next Cast Iron (which, in all honesty, probably will be called Cast Iron 8), but it has meant that the casting process this time round has taken a little longer than I’d expected. Frankly however, it’s a nice problem to have.
Finally, Iron Clad Improv is having a real burst of energy at the moment – still really welcoming to nervous newcomers, but also genuinely challenging. We’re talking a lot this month about leaving your ego at the door, dropping the jokes, and increasing the generosity for your fellow performers. Each Sunday between 7 and 9 is a revelation, and I consider myself lucky to share a learning environment with such hungry students*
*hungry for knowledge, not for food. That would be upsetting.