I just love a good post-show Q&A and, frankly, I miss doing them as often as I used to in my WhatsOnStage days. My firm belief is that a well-run Q&A can not only give theatregoers greater insights into the creative process, it can deepen connections with the play and its themes for both artists and audiences – and thereby strengthen the relationship between those two subsets of the theatre community. It’s the ultimate extension and enhancement of the “shared experience”.
So when actor-producer Emily Dobbs of Jagged Fence – one of the up-and-coming #greatladiesoftheatre, who I’ve previously blogged about around last autumn’s One Stage season – invited me to get involved with a series of post-show events around her imminent production of Strindberg’s The Father, I nearly bit her hand off.
Post-show events are an extension and enhancement of the theatrical ‘shared experience’
What’s more, I’m not just showing up and hosting an event talking about the production in isolation, I get to programme a series of three events, involving cast and creatives as well as some very cool and knowledgeable experts on related subjects.
We’re still nailing down all our speakers, but I’m thrilled at the ones we have lined up so far. We are going to have a seriously lively and though-provoking time at each and every one of these events.
Being the Twitter addict that I am, I’m also keen to whip up some social media buzz around these discussions. So feel free to come along to live-tweet, blog, take photos, grab selfies with me, the cast, the speakers, the ushers, you name it.
After each one, I’ll follow up with a blog, photo gallery and podcast of my own back here. So do please keep checking back regardless.
About The Father
So I’ve got to admit, I’ve never seen The Father. As far as August Strindberg goes, my have-seen tick list is this:
- Miss Julie (a few times, plus Patrick Marber’s After Miss Julie, 2003)
- Dance of Death (starring Ian McKellen and Frances de la Tour, directed by Sean Mathias, West End’s Lyric Theatre 2003)
- A Dream Play (directed by Katie Mitchell at the National, 2005)
- Creditors (directed by Alan Rickman at the Donmar Warehouse, 2008)
I know there have been other Strindbergs in my time, but to be fair, not that many. And indeed, this is the first major London production of The Father in over 20 years.
The play, written in 1887 as Strindberg’s own marriage was disintegrating, centres on a power struggle between a husband and wife over the welfare of their teenaged daughter. Often cited as an early women’s liberation tract (or misogyny in action, depending on your perspective), it echoes, and extends, many of the themes raised in another contemporary stage classic, written by Strindberg’s fellow Scandinavian, Henrik Ibsen: 1879’s A Doll’s House.
“A psychologically astute portrayal of gender roles, attitudes to marriage and the battle between science and religion”
This new adaptation by Laurie Slade, which premiered to critical acclaim at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre in 2012 and was subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 3, relocates the action to 1920s northern England. It’s billed as “a psychologically astute portrayal of gender roles, attitudes to marriage and the battle between science and religion”.
So plenty of hefty issues to sink our teeth into for some post-show panel discussion action!
For this London premiere production, director Abbey Wright (whose next West End credit will be the West End revival of Richard Bean’s The Mentalists, starring Stephen Merchant) has assembled a great cast, led by Alex Ferns as the Captain and Emily Dobbs as his wife Laura. They’re joined by June Watson, Thomas Coombes, Robert Wilfort, Barnaby Sax and Millie Thew.
As I said, more guests are being added, but here’s what we’ve got lined up so far.
Monday 23 March 2015
Feminism and Fifty Shades of Grey
How far have women’s rights come since the 1880s (when Strindberg was writing) and the 1920s (when this new version of The Father is set)? Where does feminism stand in the age of Fifty Shades of Grey and Page 3/No More Page 3? What do theatre and the arts have to contribute to the debate?
Caroline Criado-Perez: Author, Broadcaster and Feminist Campaigner
Caroline is a freelance journalist, broadcaster and feminist campaigner, who appears regularly across the print and broadcast media. She was featured in the Independent on Sunday’s Happy List 2013, and won the Liberty Human Rights Campaigner of the Year Award 2013. She also founded The Women’s Room directory of female experts for media requests. Her first book, Do It Like A Woman, will be published by Portobello Books in May 2015
Natalie Collins: Founder of the 50 Shades is Domestic Abuse campaign
Natalie is a Gender Justice Specialist. She works to enable individuals and organisations to prevent and respond to male violence against women. She is also the Creator of The DAY Programme, an innovative youth domestic abuse and exploitation education programme and the Founder of the 50 Shades is Domestic Abuse campaign. She speaks and writes on understanding and ending gender injustice nationally and internationally.
Lucy-Anne Holmes: Founder of the No More Page 3 campaign
Lucy-Anne is an actress, writer and campaigner. She founded the successful No More Page 3 campaign, lobbying The Sun newspaper to end its daily publication of semi-nude glamour model photos. Her new book is called How to Start a Revolution, which encourages people to realise that now is the time to harness the internet to form movements and effect change.
Polly Neate: CEO of Women’s Aid
Polly joined Women’s Aid, the national charity for women and children working to end domestic abuse, in February 2013. She is also a prominent commentator on violence against women, and on sexism and feminism more widely. Throughout Polly’s career, she has influenced government and campaigned for policy change and social justice.
Her previous role was as Executive Director of External Relations and Communications at Action for Children, one of the UK’s largest charities. In 2008 she was responsible for the relaunch of the organisation, formerly NCH. Polly is a trained journalist, with her last media job being as editor of Community Care, a major weekly title for professionals in children’s services and social care. She has contributed to national newspapers, magazines and books and won several awards as an editor. She has been a member of many advisory and working groups for government and opposition. She was recently voted one of the Top 30 charity CEOs on Twitter.
Tim Robey: Film Critic for the Daily Telegraph
Tim Robey has written on film, and occasionally books, for the Daily Telegraph since 2000. He is co-editor of The DVD Stack (Canongate), a guide to the best versions of movies available globally, and turns up on Radio 4’s Front Row, the Film Programme, Monocle FM Radio and BBC Film 2015.
Polly Toynbee: Columnist for the Guardian
Polly Toynbee is a Guardian columnist (since 1998) and former BBC Social Affairs Editor. Her books include Hard Work: Life in Low-pay Britain, The Verdict: Did Labour Change Britain and Unjust Rewards: Exposing Greed and Inequality in Britain Today. Her latest book is Cameron’s Coup: How the Tories Took Britain to the Brink.
Monday 30 March 2015
Parenting rights: Does mummy or daddy know best?
In The Father, the only way that the mother is able to take control of her life, her family’s fortune and her daughter’s future is by driving her abusive husband to mental breakdown. Has family law now swung too far in the other direction? What about fathers’ rights? Is truly equal parenting ever possible?
Kyra Cornwall: Family law barrister, 1 Hare Court chambers
Kyra specialises in all areas of family law, with a particular focus on Financial Remedy proceedings, Private Law Children matters, domestic violence work, nuptial agreements and jurisdiction disputes. She appears regularly in the High Court. Her children practice includes cases involving the most serious allegations against parents, protracted and intractable contact disputes, relocation cases and matters involving children travelling abroad for contact. Prior to studying law, Kyra studied Social and Political Science at Christ’s College, Cambridge, and obtained a first-class degree.
Peter Lloyd: Journalist and author of Stand By Your Manhood
Peter is a London-based journalist who contributes to the Guardian, the Mail on Sunday, MailOnline and the Daily Telegraph. Originally from Liverpool, he was formerly the staff writer at Madonna’s UK PR company, but is now the author of Stand By Your Manhood – the UK’s first-ever commercial men’s rights book. Released by Biteback Publishing in November 2014, it was subsequently named Book Of The Week in the Daily Mail.
Matt O’Connor: Founder of Fathers 4 Justice
Creative director and political activist Matt founded Fathers 4 Justice in 2001 after he was denied access to his two sons in Britain’s Family Courts. This followed a difficult separation from his first wife. Despite resolving the matter out of court in late 2001 and re-establishing a normal relationship with his children, O’Connor pledged to reform family law for the benefit of his sons, whom he feared would suffer the same experience when they became fathers.
On 17 December 2002, Fathers 4 Justice staged their first direct action demonstration when 200 Father Christmases stormed the lobby of the then Lord Chancellor’s Department. Since then, O’Connor has masterminded the creation of one of the highest-profile campaign groups in the world, spawning a host of imitation (but unrelated) groups in different countries. His iconic protests have garnered worldwide publicity.
In 2005, Matt was GQ Magazine’s 7th Top Communicator in the UK, GQ Magazine’s 92nd Most Powerful Man in Britain, Esquire Magazine’s 35th Most Powerful Man In Britain Under 50 and one of twenty people shortlisted for the Royal Society’s Great Briton of the Year Awards.
In 2007 he published his first book Fathers 4 Justice: The Inside Story through the Orion Publishing Group and sold the motion picture rights to his life story to Buena Vista pictures, part of the Walt Disney group.
Sally Peck: Telegraph parenting hub, Mother Tongue
Sally, a mother of two, writes about parenting and families for the Telegraph, and is editor and lead writer of Mother Tongue, the Telegraph’s new digital parenting hub. Sally has worked as an assistant foreign editor and as an online reporter for the Telegraph. She is also a former primary school teacher and university lecturer.
Tuesday 7 April 2015
Women in the arts: What’s being done about gender inequality?
Is enough being done about gender inequality in theatre and the arts? On this year’s Stage 100 list, women only accounted for 26% of ‘influencers’ identified. This caused a flurry of discussion about whether there should be a separate list for women and prompted Stage editor Alistair Smith to write a response, explaining that the list represents how things are currently in the industry not how they should be…
Alistair Smith: Editor, The Stage
Alistair is editor of The Stage newspaper and author of The London Theatre Report. He has written for publications ranging from the Guardian to Hello!, and regularly appears on TV and radio discussing theatre and the performing arts.
The Stage is often referred to as the theatre industry or actors’ bible. Founded in 1880 by the Comerford family and still owned and run by them, it is the only trade paper for the performing arts and entertainment industry in Britain. It is published weekly on Thursdays. The newspaper’s website attracts 350,000 unique visitors every month. The Stage has been publishing The Stage 100, billed as the “UK theatre’s definitive power lists, every January since 1997.
Fiona Laird: Director, Writer and National Youth Arts Trust founder
Fiona is a director and writer. Her directing credits include several plays at the National Theatre, as well as productions at the Old Vic, the Royal Court, the Gate, and in the West End. She has also directed for Sky Television and Channel4, and for BBC radio. As a writer, Fiona’s plays have been produced in London and New York, and she has had pieces published in The Times and the Guardian.
Describing herself as a “massive feminist”, Fiona is committed to working to improve the representation of women in the theatre, both on and off the stage, as well as speaking out on feminist issues in other media. In 2013, Fiona founded the National Youth Arts Trust, a charity that aims to provide access to the performing arts for disadvantaged young people.
Louise Jury: Chief Arts Correspondent of the London Evening Standard
Louise was born and raised in the West Country and studied English at Trinity College, Oxford. After a mixed reporting career covering everything from riots to Third World debt, she has written about the arts for more than 15 years. Prior to the Evening Standard, Louise was the arts correspondent at the Independent newspaper.
Stella Duffy: Writer, Director and Founder of Fun Palaces
In addition to myriad directing credits, Stella is an Associate Artist with Improbable, Artistic Director of Shaky Isles, and a member of impro comedy company Spontaneous Combustion since 1988. Her solo show Breaststrokes was Time Out and Guardian Critic’s Choice. She has also written thirteen novels, over fifty short stories, ten plays, and many articles and reviews. She was the founder and convenor of The Chaosbaby Project, a large-scale multi-disciplinary Open Space theatre work, created in Open Space by 60 theatremakers ranging in ages from 17 to 70.
She is the founder and Co-Director of the Fun Palaces Campaign, a series of Fun Palaces across the UK and beyond, engendering, celebrating and enabling public engagement in the arts and sciences on a community and local basis, and commemorating Joan Littlewood’s centenary on 4/5 October 2014. The next Fun Palaces weekend is 3/4 October 2015.
Stephanie Street: Founder Member of the Act for Change project
Stephanie is an actress, writer, Literary Associate of HighTide festival, founder member of The Act for Change Project and mum. She is currently appearing in Rufus Norris’ production of David Hare’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers in the National Theatre’s Olivier.
Stephanie’s first play, Sisters, a verbatim piece about British Muslim women, re-opened the Sheffield Crucible Studio in March 2010. She is currently developing a new play about the London riots in conjunction with Alan Lane of slunglow. She has written numerous short films and radio plays.
To tie in with International Women’s Day on 8 March 2015, Act for Change has launched the new Women of a Certain Age campaign. [The trailer below features some incredible 50+ actresses, including a fantastically feisty Juliet Stevenson. I truly, madly, deeply love that lady.]