Thursday, July 21, 2011

There's been a big debate about gender inequality in Scottish theatre on the Scot-Nits bulletin board.

A post from the critic and commentator Joyce Mcmillan which mentioned the fact that when I had my breakthrough as a writer I was male "although Jo Clifford is now a woman", she added.

That made me think that having experienced both sides of the gender divide, maybe I had something to contribute.

So I wrote:

"Like everyone else,I feel grateful for Joyce for contributing to this debate with such intelligence, force and eloquence.

Like her, it concerns me to see how many plays have overwhelmingly male casts. I was lucky in that for a brief time I was able to do something about it. After the success of Losing Venice I wrote a series of plays for the Traverse in which a woman was the central character and which had an equal number of men and women in the cast: Lucy’s Play (1986) Playing With Fire (1987) The Girl Who Fell to Earth (1988: produced by Great Eastern Stage in 1991), Inés de Castro (1989) and Light in the Village (1991).

I mention these titles, and with pride, because they have since disappeared from the Scottish stage.

I suspect it was not entirely a coincidence that when I then tried to create work that openly expressed my experience as a transgendered woman I found my work being rejected by the Traverse; or that for the next eighteen years I was unable to write original work for any Scottish theatre.

It is worth repeating that we live in a patriarchal culture where misogyny remains an immensely powerful force. It is very hard to break the mould, as I know to my cost.

it is necessary to break through one’s own internalised oppression (in my case, strong residues of fear and shame) not to mention the other obstacles of covert censorship and the occasional outburst of vicious prejudice.

That’s why it is very important we have a company like Stellar Quines; and why they are to be congratulated for trying to reach a better understanding of the obstacles women face."

Two things I should have added:

that in those days when i was writing for the Traverse I was also sharing half the childcare with my partner


What I experienced as important during that time was not that I was a man (because that basically made me miserable) but the fact that the Traverse was my artistic home.

Theatre artists need stability to flourish. It's really destructive that it is almost always denied us.


As I'd expect, a thoughtful and thought provoking post - and entirely true. I wish you would write more about it!
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