Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival, Hampstead

“Join the movement for righteous anger”

With over 100 cast, writers, directors and crew, and 25 plays (none of which were by Agatha Christie!) spread over 7 programmes, Sphinx Theatre’s Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival was a full-on day indeed for those of us who stayed the course from midday to nearly 10pm, with scarcely time to imbibe yet another coffee as we moved from rehearsal room to studio to main house. But though I was 90% caffeine by the end, the buzz I was experiencing was one of delight at the sheer breadth and quality of the theatre we’d been privileged to witness.

The Women Centre Stage Festival was initiated by Sphinx to bring together artists, venues, commissioners and funders in expanding the range of women’s roles and this it has done in a number of different ways. Workshops ran throughout the week at the Actors Centre, a panel discussion broached the larger question of how to improve gender equality in theatre and the plays that were presented throughout the festival’s performance day ranged from works commissioned and developed from the 2105 festival, to the fruits of Sphinx Writers Group, to rapid responses to this week’s headlines. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival, Hampstead”

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – Women on the Edge

“It’s something about my appearance that I can control”

The Women on the Edge session of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival featured three works that were commissioned and developed from the 2015 festival held at the National Theatre. This just happened to include one of my favourite pieces from across the entire day – Camilla Harding and Alexandra Sinclair’s Man Up! Deceptively simple in its format yet deliciously complex in its subject matter, the pair give the lie to conventional gender norms and make a fabulously compelling case for the importance of recognising gender fluidity in society.

Their stagecraft is ingenious too, transformations subtly worked so that they were halfway complete before you clock exactly what’s going on. Judith Jones and Beatrix Campbell’s Justice has no such ambiguity about it, an emotionally bruising look at the lasting impact of the Cleveland child abuse scandal and the trials its victims face in trying to escape its shadow, in search of a truth, a resolution that might somehow set them free. Directed by Ros Philips, Claire-Louise Cordwell’s damaged warrior of justice is a brilliantly thorny part and contrasted well with Kathryn O’Reilly’s softer but no less fierce budding campaigner. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – Women on the Edge”

News – Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival begins

Monday 14th November sees the launch of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival at Hampstead Theatre and The Actors Centre. Produced by Sphinx Theatre Company and Joanna Hedges, Women Centre Stage exists to promote, advocate for and inspire women in the arts and has developed and commissioned a wide range of new work which uniquely brings together a diverse array of women characters far from the margins into centre stage.

This is the second year of Women Centre Stage and the festival features a range of workshops and creative comings-together which will culminate in the Performance Day on Sunday 20th November which will feature seven programmes throughout the day. This will include opportunities to see emerging work from new and established writers, plays commissioned from last year’s festival, and see four playwrights respond the headlines of the day in writing a new play each in 24 hours. 

“What will we say at the Women Centre Stage Festival? Enough of being backgrounded. The world will just have to get used to our stronger presence in every walk of life and art. I’m happy to be part of that conversation.” 

Dame Janet Suzman.

(c) Ruphin Coudyzer
Reflecting the significance of the festival and the work it has been and will continue to achieve, there’s a mightily impressive role call of British talent contributing to the programme. Writers such as Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Evening Standard Award-winning Charlene James, Dawn King, Howard Brenton, Vinay Patel, April de Angelis and Sabrina Mahfouz will be represented with actors like Dame Janet Suzman, Ann Mitchell, Maggie Steed, Cecilia Noble and Ronke Adekoluejo treading the boards.


It all promises to be a fascinating and valuable day and I’m currently planning to attend a significant amount of the programme – more details below – and if you’re interested in coming along too, then take a look at their website here

Programme for the Performance Day – Sunday 20th November

A Question of Identity – 12.00pm

Three performances from emerging companies and artists looking at the question of female identity, featuring F*cking Feminists by Rose Lewenstein originally commissioned by Theatre 503 and Mama Quilla, Road to Huntsville by Stephanie Ridings originally commissioned by China Plate, Warwick Arts Centre and mac birmingham and Battleface by Sabrina Mahfouz originally commissioned by the Bush Theatre.

Women on the Edge – 1.30pm

Sphinx Theatre presents three plays commissioned and developed from the 2015 festival featuring She Didn’t Jump She was Pushed by Matilda Ibini starring Anita Joy Uwajeh and Ronke Adekoluejo, Man- Up by Camilla Harding and Alexandra Sinclair and Justice by Judith Jones and Beatrix Campbell.

In Conversation: Changing the Landscape – 2.45pm

How can we encourage change in the cultural landscape to improve gender equality in theatre? A panel discussion chaired by Sarah Crompton former Arts Editor in Chief at the Telegraph with playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker, Suzanne Bell – New Writing Associate at Royal Exchange Theatre and Elizabeth Newman -Artistic Director of the Octagon Theatre.

PRIDE and Prejudice – 4.00pm

Presenting work which provokes us to talk about prejudice. Join us for Chloe Todd Fordham’s The Night Club, an excerpt of Tanika Gupta’s A Perfect Match plus Graeae Theatre Company showcase 6 brand new pieces from an all female Deaf/disabled creative team featuring writers from all over the UK; promoting empowering female narratives and shining new light on the perceptions (and misperceptions) of women today.

New Women – 5.30pm

We present new plays by April de Angelis, and Winsome Pinnock including performances by Janet Suzman, Kathryn Pogson and Cecilia Noble plus The Hiccup Project join us straight from tour to present an excerpt of May-We-Go-Round.

Sphinx Writers Group: Power Play – 7.00pm 

Six months in development, we present new writing from the Sphinx Writers Group; Dawn King, Georgia Christou, Jessica Sian and Catriona Kerridge.

24 Hour Plays: Making Headlines – 8.30pm

Four writers are given 24 Hours to write a new play responding directly to that days news headlines. The new work will be rehearsed on the day of the festival and presented at the end of the day as the Festival Finale. Featuring four new plays from Howard Brenton, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Charlene James and Vinay Patel. Ann Mitchell and Maggie Steed plus others will join us to perform in this hour of exciting new writing.

Review: Three Sisters, White Bear

“You know what London pubs are like – you don’t know anyone and no-one knows your name”

Looking back over the blog, it turns out I’ve seen Chekhov’s Three Sisters four times in recent years and all of them have been a modern updating of some sort and now I’ve seen FiasCo Theatre’s version at a spruced up White Bear Theatre in Kennington, I’m on five for five. This uncredited adaptation sees the sisters moved to present day Britain, moved by their father from their beloved London to an unspecified place in the north (with a train station 12 miles away) and a military garrison nearby.

The Prozorovs are rechristened as the Earnshaws and in a nifty bit of renaming that nods to one of Chehov’s possible inspirations, Olga, Masha and Irina have become Charlotte, Emily and Anne. Ed Sheeran and Bastille may blast over the stereo but otherwise, the modern references are just lightly sprinkled throughout in just the right quantity – it is a pretty respectful, condensed take on the story which reiterates the crushing paralysis of inaction no matter the time or place. Continue reading “Review: Three Sisters, White Bear”