3 November 2013

The Independents – How Do We Support The Women Making New Theatre?

Camden People's Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Road, London, NW1 2PY

12PM - 4PM

The Independents – how do we support the women making new theatre?

Are you an independent theatre maker?

Do you also happen to be a woman?

Is the satisfaction of being ‘boundary pushing’ enough to sustain you?

Does this edginess create exciting work in itself, or would you rather be on a payroll and pay your rent? 

As a female independent theatre maker in the current climate, do you feel that your work and your well-being are more at risk?

Most of the exciting risk-taking work in theatre is being made independently, by artists who are dependent on project funding and have no security. Within this gang the women are more vulnerable still, as last year's Equity statistics show (an average of 22 % of jobs go to women). This matches my experience: I've been an actor and director and an Artistic Director of Cartoon de Salvo for more than 15 years, but over the past couple of years I've been on a big journey, interrogating both my performance practise and my place working in the theatre world. What has emerged is the realisation of how I’ve been held back in the past because of something to do with entitlement (or the lack of it) and something to do with creative independence. 

I’ve been dreaming up a project to address this vulnerability: it’s called Birdhouse. So far I have interviewed seven extraordinary theatre makers: Stella Duffy, Matilda Leyser, Caroline Horton, Jemma McDonnell, Charlotte Vincent, Angela Clerkin, Angela de Castro. These brilliant female theatre makers have performed both nationally and internationally, some of them for over 30 years. They have engaged huge numbers in terms of audience figures and garnered awards and critical acclaim. The reach that these artists have and the impact their work has made is extraordinary and yet the other extraordinary thing is that without exception all these women feel that their work is vulnerable; that it’s sustainability and continuation are constantly under threat. I don’t yet know what Birdhouse will be; I have a bit of money from ACE to pilot it. I’d like it to be practical, relevant, useful. I would love to get some ideas for Birdhouse in this Open Space, and I’m certain we can explore a lot more besides - there are many important conversations to be had around this theme and I am delighted Improbable and CPT are enabling the event to happen. So whatever kind of relationship you have with theatre, if you want to be a part of addressing this question, then come along with all your devotion and disgruntlement : I look forward to seeing you there - and that’s the chaps too of course!

Alex Murdoch, Actor, Director, Co-Artistic Director Cartoon de Salvo

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