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Denise Gough and Rebecca Lenkiewicz champion Bechdel Theatre Festival

Denise Gough. Photo: Mariano Vivanco

Actor Denise Gough, and playwrights Rebecca Lenkiewicz and Sabrina Mahfouz, are backing a year-long festival aimed at celebrating the “complex and diverse” representation of women on stage.

Bechdel Theatre Festival has been created by Beth Watson, the founder of Bechdel Theatre, which began life as a Twitter campaign last year. It promotes and celebrates plays that pass the Bechdel Test – which asks whether a play has at least two women in it, who talk to each other about something other than a man.

Over the year, the festival will hold conversations in theatres inspired by productions that pass the test.

Watson explained that reactions to the Twitter campaign had resulted in people recommending “more shows than I could physically or financially get to see”.

She said the aim was to choose a show that passes the test, find a time and place that is convenient for the venue it is being performed in, and then “sit down together to talk about what we’ve seen”.

“The idea is to take the online conversation we’ve started, and have it in a physical space, breaking down the barriers of communication between regular theatregoers, first-time theatregoers and professional theatremakers, on the basis of a shared love of complex female characters and relationships. We enjoy sharing our responses with each other on Twitter, so Bechdel Theatre Festival facilitates the opportunity to do this face-to-face.” she said.

Watson said the events would be free to people who had watched the chosen show, and that casts and creatives involved in the selected production would be invited to join the discussion.

One event is being planned around the West End production of People, Places and Things [1], starring Gough.

A launch event for the festival was held on March 20 at the Arts Theatre in London, where extracts from plays that pass the test were performed, including Lenkiewicz’s Her Naked Skin, and Offside by Mahfouz and Hollie McNish. The event was also a fundraiser to enable Bechdel Theatre to establish a website featuring a database of all published plays that pass the test, and to help the campaign publicise its activities.

Separately, Gough is backing a campaign [2] called Equal Representation for Actresses – 50:50 by 2018.