Hecate Theatre Co.

Making theatre with an all-female twist.

Froggy feminism

We’re fresh off the (slimy) back of our latest project – our most ambitious to date – a regional tour of Aristophanes’ Frogs to Bath, Stroud, Exeter and Bristol, funded by Arts Council England. So many people were involved in the running of this project and I am pleased to report that both their support, and the incredible dedication of our team, meant the show went off without a hitch at every venue. Not only that, we must be the unrivalled get-out queens of the theatre universe – it took under half an hour to pack all of Charlie’s awesome set into two cars, and off we went!

Aside from the joys of performing, driving, getting-in, getting-out, more driving, lots of coffee, David Bowie CDs, surprise fog on the motorway at 10.30 pm and, of course, green face paint – the most important thing to us every day of the tour was the reaction of our audience. Isn’t it so for any theatre-maker? All in all, ‘surprise’ seems to be the word of the moment. Who’d have thought an Ancient Greek comedy could be so funny, relevant and fresh? People were mostly ‘surprised’ by either our skill as performers, or how much they enjoyed watching us.  None more so than the school party from St Katherine’s, Bristol, who pretty much made our year at the Q&A after our Arnos Vale show.

The teachers from St Kaths told us that their pupils study and perform drama as part of their various Arts courses, but that there pertains this idea that the female characters must be ‘upright’ and ‘feminine’ – that they can have no other role than the damsel in distress, the windswept heroine, or the depressed mother. Our Frogs, according to these teachers, completely blew the minds of their students. They were in stitches at five girls clowning about the stage, unafraid to appear ridiculous, grotesque, daubed in paint and pulling stupid faces. Not only was Frogs political in its discourse and subtext, but in its essence as an all-female production as well. This, the teachers told us, is exactly what school children everywhere need to see – they need to realise that this is what women are capable of, and we couldn’t agree more.

In short, we are thrilled at this response. Hecate has always stood for giving women more interesting roles onstage and broadening the minds of our audiences, so to receive that feedback from young people – who will become the next generation – is fantastic. It means that we are making a difference. It makes our work feel really worthwhile.

If you caught a glimpse of our Frogs on tour, get in touch and let us know what you thought! If you’re interested in working with us in the future, or would like to be added to our mailing list, drop us a line: hecatetheatre@gmail.com.

Tricks of the touring trade

After a few week of frenzied activity I finally have enough time to sit down at my computer and write. I’ve always enjoyed my role at Hecate in organising our shows, sending out press releases, liaising with venues, managing our ever growing social media platforms and generally promoting the company and its productions. In the incredible few years I have been on the Hecate production team we have performed in Bath, Bristol, Edinburgh and Stratford, and now, for the first time we are taking a show out on tour. Staying true to our West Country roots, we are touring regional venues in the surrounding counties, starting in Bath, going onwards to Stroud and Exeter before returning to our home town of Bristol. This is our first tour and also our first production funded by the Arts Council England, in association with the National Lottery, to whom we would like to extend our grateful thank. Also, thanks to you; if you have ever bought a lottery ticket, you may have helped us too!

So, we’re ready to hop off on our first tour with FROGS, a bonkers tale based on a play by Aristophanes. What would organising such a tour involve? In many ways, it’s no different to previous productions we have put on. We are still required to send out press releases, liaise with venues and do all the other necessary publicity work that involves promoting a show, with one slight difference; now instead of doing that for just one venue, we are doing it for four. (All credit must be given to our brilliant Artistic Director for sourcing each of our lovely venues – thanks, Hannah!)
Our previous experience of organising shows outside Bath and Bristol primarily involved producing shows for the Edinburgh Festival. Edinburgh Fringe veterans will know that the Fringe organisers provide incredible support, sending out a full press list with a detailed list of who to contact for what. This certainly makes life easier, to not have to spend hours scouring the net finding contacts. However, for a tour there are no such privileges! Your venue will undoubtedly promote your show for you, but we have never been one to sit idle while others work, so our artistic director Hannah-Marie Chidwick slowly turned her eyes square, as she trawled through the mire that is the internet to find the relevant contacts for each area. No mean feat, that! Press Releases were dutifully dispatched, local radio stations contacted and hard copy publicity hand delivered to our venues.

Phew! But the work does not stop there, now it’s time for the social media campaign! And, what’s that you say? We’ve just been awarded Arts Council Funding? How wonderful! But the posters have already gone out…?! Quickly to the sticker factory! Then from the sticker factory, to the Hecate mobile, to deliver the stickers to the venues and affix them to our posters. They look glorious. We’re ready to go now, can we relax for a while?

Ping! Ooh an email, I do like those. Can I be available for a telephone interview? Tomorrow morning? Perfect.
Brrrng brrrng… Hello? Yes, of course you can invite our Artistic Director onto your radio show? No, travelling to the studio is fine for us.

Ping! Can we talk to you about a possible radio appearance? (Another one? Hurrah!) Yes, of course you can.

Ping! Can I confirm that I am happy with our listing? Well yes it looks lov-

Ping! Please can you send us some publicity stills, we’d like to feature you on our site.

Brrrng brrrng. Hello? Yes, now is perfect for that interview-

And so it goes on. Simply wonderful. In fact, I’m pretty certain the only reason that my phone and computer are quiet right now, is it’s Sunday and normal people are resting on the sofa. Either that or they forgot the clocks go forward and are quite sensibly still in bed. Which, come to think of it… might not be a bad idea… But no! Blogs to write, tweets to send… I’ll rest in May…

Well, maybe.

Writing/speaking/listening for women

Our Writing for Women event last Monday was a triumph – thank you so much to our very game audience and terrific speakers.

It’s heartening to know that there are many people out there, male and female, questioning the role of women in the arts industry. Even though every speaker on our panel had something very different to say, all seemed to agree on one thing: women need more time – and better time – in the spotlight. Our esteemed director of Frogstouring this April around the South West – made my favourite point of the night: the joys of being ugly. We play Aristophanes’ comedy with a cast of five females. Now, traditionally, Aristophanes’ work is hyper-slapstick, hugely scatalogical and downright silly. To see five women take on this style of theatre is rare, rarer still to have them do so without even a whiff of a Y chromosome, yet what we present for our audiences is just that. Our cast revel in playing the grungy, grotesque frogs with the utmost delight and enthusiasm – that’s what drew Abbi to the project and that’s why we love performing it so much!

We’d also like to mention the superb presentation on women’s comedy by Jane Duffus of comedy brand, What the Frock!, for reminding us of the prejudice that still exists in the comedy world against women. Why are men the ‘safe’ option on a stand-up bill? Why not put on some funny women to replace any rubbish male comedians?! Amen!

Elaine Miles spoke heart-wrenchingly on the declining number of roles available for older women and the difficult subject matter which she likes to tackle in her writing. So many subjects, especially those pertaining to women’s lifestyle, are taboo for dual-gender audiences. To find out more about what Elaine is up to, follow her on Twitter @elainemilesk2. As if that wasn’t enough, Tamara Prenn, from the University of Bristol magazine, That’s What She Said, reminded us about the literary approach to women’s writing. Her section about reading as a woman was particularly interesting; she theorised that an English degree syllabus is dominated by male writers because, following comments from her tutors, it might be difficult for male students to ‘read as women’ in the same way women are expected to become male characters and ‘read as men.’ Food for thought indeed.

And the evening was thoroughly brightened up by some fantastic ukelele ditties from Helena Hoyle, including an especially-for-us song about the difficulty of finding the right words! Plus a reprisal of all-time Hoyle classic, Wear the Jumper.

You can see photos from Writing for Women, and more information about our company projects, on our Facebook page.

Hop to it!

The Hecate crew are back on the road this Easter with their five-star amphibian fiesta Frogs. Sparking ribbiting, rivalry and an epic battle of wits, this bonkers Greek comedy is a sure-fire hit with young and old. Why not come along and see for yourself…?

Tour 2015
8-9 April – The Rondo Theatre, Bath Comedy Festival BOOK TICKETS
11 April – Cotswold Playhouse, Stroud BOOK TICKETS
14 April – Barnsfield Theatre, Exeter BOOK TICKETS
16 April – Anglican Chapel in Arnos Vale, Bristol BOOK TICKETS


Find out more on our Current Shows page.

Who do you write for?

As another year rolls into view, and all at Hecate HQ glare alarmed at their rapidly changing desk calendars, we feel a change in the winter air. A big change. Since we started with our teeny freebie, A Halloween Cabaret, four years back, there has been something of a resurgence in the world of feminist media. We’ve heard about the Bechdel test, seen females take on Shakespearean heroes at the main stages in London, and sparked reviewer after reviewer to criticise films, TV and theatre for underusing or patronising their female characters. So far, so good.

However, while everyone is finally turning their eyes to the stage, we want to direct everyone a little further into the shadows – to the writers and directors. We’ve always had an open policy at Hecate that to be in the cast, you have to identify yourself as female, but to write, direct, produce, compose or build a set for us, it’s anyone’s game. On the 23rd February this year, we invite speakers, debaters and open minds to attend a panel conversation on the subject of Writing for Women.

We’ll be asking who you write for when you visualise a play taking shape, whether there is a different goal or a wholly different process in play when writing for either female performers or a female audience. Moreover, is there still a significant gender gap when it comes to representing and performing women’s work – or work for women?

If you have something to say, get in touch.

The eye of the storm

Working in production is a funny old game; in many ways it’s rather like a hurricane. There’s a flurry of activity in pre-production when the show is being cast, the venue confirmed, posters designed and the PRs written. Then after that initial whirlwind of activity – where there are simply not enough hours in the day – comes that moment of eerie calm, when there is little to do but wait. It is the eye of the storm. You know it’s not the end, you know that soon the storm will return and the production team will be rushed off their feet as rehearsals gather apace and the social media machine grinds into noisy action. However, until then there’s very little to do that hasn’t already been done. This eye doesn’t last very long, a few days at most, so the sensible thing to do would be to take advantage of this brief pause, to rest, re-energise and catch up on sleep, yes? But do the production team do this? No. They bite their nails, worry about what’s still to be done and lose sleep thinking of witty (?) blogs to write.

Now, when is that storm of activity and 14 hour days going to hit? As, quite frankly, anything else would be boring.