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Matilda writer Dennis Kelly calls for more gender-swapped casting in theatre

Playwright Dennis Kelly
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Playwright Dennis Kelly has championed the practice of gender-swapped casting in theatre, claiming it makes productions richer.

Kelly, whose credits include Matilda the Musical and Girls and Boys at London’s Royal Court, was speaking at a platform on his adaptation of Pinocchio at the National Theatre in London.

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The writer argued that there was more scope to gender-swap traditionally male roles in theatre casting than is currently the case.

“I think as writers and directors we’ve always got to be looking at this,” he said.

“You’ve got to be careful that you are not sort of paying lip service to a particular idea; but actually a production becomes richer if it feels like the voices come from different places.”

Kelly said that it felt like a “good move” for the character of Jiminy Cricket in the NT’s Pinocchio to be played by a woman.

He added: “It just felt interesting to change it around and also it was nice that there’s this male/female relationship [at a time] where we are sort of getting past the idea that men and women only look at each other in certain ways.

“We’re not totally past that at all; it’s very rare in TV or film that a man and a woman can have a totally platonic friendship beyond a family.”

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