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Theatre company recruits 36 performers to tackle lack of opportunities for actresses

Members of Dangerous Space, a new all-female theatre company. Photo: Dangerous Space Members of Dangerous Space, a new all-female theatre company. Photo: Dangerous Space
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An all-female theatre company has launched to address the “lack of multi-dimensional opportunities” for actresses.

A diverse group of 36 actresses has been selected to take part in the project, called Dangerous Space. Based in London, it will involve regular training and creative workshops spread over a year.

After the year of workshops, six playwrights will be commissioned to write plays for the company, each with six-strong casts.

The performers will also begin work on an all-female production of a classical Shakespeare text, to be performed along with the commissioned plays in late 2018 and early 2019.

Dangerous Space was founded by vocal coach and theatre director Barbara Houseman, who worked on Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female Shakespeare trilogy at the Donmar Warehouse in London, and theatremaker Nastazja Somers, who founded the HerStory: Feminist Theatre Festival.

Houseman and Somers auditioned almost 200 performers for the company, which they hope will challenge the “lack of representation for female actors”.

They are currently in the process of selecting six playwrights, who can be of any gender, with a particular focus on choosing writers from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Members of Dangerous Space, a new all-female theatre company. Photo: Dangerous Space
Members of Dangerous Space, a new all-female theatre company. Photo: Dangerous Space

Somers said: “We have to change the way this industry works.

“I think there is a real gap; there are a lot of female Shakespeare or gender-blind productions, but I don’t think they are radical enough. I want this to be really different.”

Somers said it was important for a group of women to work together on the project, as society “makes us believe women are competing against each other”.

She added: “Also, it’s important we stop putting Shakespeare on a pedestal. [Shakespeare] is for everyone. We want to make it about people playing Shakespeare.

“We’ve called the project Dangerous Space because it is about going to places we [as women] are not normally allowed to go and changing the status quo. There is this whole thing about women coming together. It is going to be a very radical project.”

Somers said: “This is a very diverse pool of women, the youngest is just 20 and one is in her 60s. They all have different expectations, but every one of them wants to change things.”

She added: “[In the theatre industry] we look at things the same way we did 40 years ago. Anyone from a good background in a play will speak with an RP accent and the servants will speak with a northern accent.

“But if you want to attract kids to see theatre, you have to allow them to see themselves on stage.”

Somers added that the project has applied for funding, and that she is currently in talks with venues about finding rehearsal and performance spaces. Anyone wishing to help should contact Somers via Twitter.

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