There’s been some controversy lately about gender in theatre. A production of Oleanna in the US, a play written for a man (the uni lecturer) and a women (the student) was staged with two males in the roles. David Mamet pulled the plug after one performance.
In Sydney, at Belvoir St Theatre, a male has been cast as the lead in a production of Hedda Gabler.
The production is directed by Adena Jacobs, a woman, who calls it a ‘post-gender’ production.
Ash Flanders, who plays Gabler, say “... I think Hedda is almost beyond gender, she is almost a mythical creature.”
Now I’ve ranted here before about the state of Sydney theatre, about the work of directors Simon Stone and Benedict Andrews, and how tawdy, misogynistic and base their productions are. (I blame Barry Kosky. Compulsory masterbation scene, anyone?) I’ve asked that we have more female directors and that productions have a vision of what the world may be, not of how depraved the world is. These productions are not what I want to see at the theatre. Yes, I know people watch Big Brother on tv, but we expect a little more critique and insight from theatrical experiences. When I see nudity, excrement and bad behaviour on stage, as someone who has lived with small children, it just makes me think of more mess for women to clean up. I was hoping a female director at Belvoir would be different. I need to think again.
So far, I’ve only read this review, which views it poorly.
If we really did live in a post-gender world, casting men in women’s roles would be fine. If there were loads of great roles for women, it would be fine. If casting against type added some insight or critique, then that would be fine. I’m all for shaking up the classics - transport them to different times and places - that would be fine. But don’t just do it for the sake of it, or for sensationalism. You need to actually have something to say. So now I'm not sure if it is a gender problem, or a Sydney theatre (STC/Belvoir St) problem.
And I wonder what all the underemployed great female actors think about their limited roles going to men.