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.

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.