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Stars of Sondheim’s Company demand more lead roles for older women

Director Marianne Elliott (third from left) with stars of Company Patti LuPone, Rosalie Craig, and Mel Giedroyc Director Marianne Elliott (third from left) with stars of Company Patti LuPone, Rosalie Craig and Mel Giedroyc
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Director Marianne Elliott and actor Rosalie Craig have called for more lead roles for older women in “predominantly male theatre”.

Craig argued that a lack of female protagonists over the age of 35 was a particular issue in musical theatre, which she claims is dominated by “young, juvenile” leads.

The comments were made at the launch of Elliott’s gender-swapped production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, which stars Craig in the lead role of Bobby, re-imagined as a woman for the first time.

Craig said: “Women are represented generally in the arts, on stage and in film, as not usually [aged] 35 and up.

“Especially in musicals it’s a young, juvenile lead, and I think [we need] different stories, exactly like Patti [LuPone] and I are going to be playing, about a 35-year-old woman and an older lady having a friendship and that being very important in life.”

She added: “We do need more female roles, period.”

Elliott said one of the reasons she left the National Theatre to set up her own production company was to be in control of her own work, and that, in particular, she was looking for stories with “slightly older female protagonists”.

Marianne Elliott quits National Theatre to form independent company

“I would like to see more female stories out there, particularly older female stories,” she said.

“There aren’t many at the moment. I love them and I’m interested in that, that’s my bias.”

Elliott also discussed the dominance of male writers in theatre, adding: “Things are changing but it has been quite hard for women to get their work on.

“It’s predominantly a male society, predominately a male culture, predominantly a male theatre, and predominantly male critics, but that’s changing definitely.”

The Great British Bake Off presenter Mel Giedroyc, who also stars in Company, echoed these comments, arguing that the lack of female writers was particularly prevalent in musical theatre.

She said: “It’s the old adage, if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.

“It’s having those brilliant women that break out and do something, and then other girls say: ‘I can do that too.’ It’s a bit of a cliché but I would think that’s highly needed.”

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