It seems about time we properly introduced Smooth Faced Gentlemen and our involvement with it.
[Note – This post was originally written about three weeks ago but, what with all the rehearsing and doing plays, we’ve only just got around to publishing it!]
As you may have gathered, we’re co-creating a production of Romeo & Juliet with an all-female cast at the Buxton Fringe this year. I say co-creating a) because the force is much more than just Tom, Michael and myself, and b) because the team with hopefully evolve into a distinct entity, with a distinct identity. Whether “distinct” means “separate” is yet to be seen. But we (the team behind Romeo & Juliet) hope to create more Shakespeare shows with an all-female cast, whether or not we (Three’s Company) or we (Yaz, Michael & Tom) are involved.
Confused? Don’t be. The fact is, a group of people wanted to try out an idea, and so we are.
The impetus came from a few pub conversations over the last months, with several friends and colleagues (I can’t credit them all, but Michael, Ashlea Kaye, Mariam Bell and myself were probably at the core). Michael had heard someone complain that all-male Shakespeare companies compounded the already massive imbalance of male-female roles available. As I remember it, his response was roughly that anyone is allowed set up a company, and there was nothing to stop whoever was complaining from creating an all-female Shakespeare company. This idea intrigued us, and was a frequent topic of conversation – always as a hypothetical, never with any intention of being the ones to realise it.
Michael pointed out that a single all-female Shakespeare show would inevitably be interpreted as a statement about gender politics, but that a troupe dedicated to that purpose would be less constrained but such pre-conceptions. I liked the idea that the gender of a character transcends the gender of the actor who’s “channeling” them. We talked about analogies with musical instruments. Imagine a song played three times: first by the collection of instruments it was conceived for; secondly by a band all playing the same instrument, and thirdly on a different instrument, or sung acapella… all variations unlock something new to the listener.
And we all agreed it was a company we’d watch, if such a company were to exist.
Concurrently, Three’s Company were itching to create another Shakespeare show, without seeing a chance in our short-term plans. I was looking for another opportunity to direct something, and trying to encourage Michael to do the same. Ashlea was considering making the transition from pure actress to making theatre as well. And we were lamenting the fact that we had neither the time nor the right project for the Buxton Fringe this year.
I’m gonna go ahead and take credit as the one who noticed the obvious link. We considered the idea seriously for the first time, less than a week before the Fringe deadline, and the idea gathered momentum, grew legs, snowballed, and did other things that ideas do when you get excited about them…
So here we are, with just
over a month less than a day to go. Romeo & Juliet is being directed by Three’s Company, and co-produced by Ashlea Kaye. Ashlea’s also performing, along with six other actresses, all of whom I hope will continue to work with us. “Smooth Faced Gentlemen” currently just equals “the people who are making Romeo & Juliet with an all-female cast” (ie. Ashlea, Three’s Company, and the actors). If it works, hopefully it will evolve into “some people who make Shakespeare shows with all-female casts”, whatever proportion of us stay involved.
Between Ashlea, Michael, Tom and myself, we’ll post some more thought on here soon. We’ve been meaning to write about the experience of the rehearsal process for some time. I’d also like to talk (and ask) about the paradoxical idea of an all-female show that’s got such heavy involvement from men. Plus, we’ve had some heated debates about the ways you should approach Shakespeare, and found some interesting ideas in the text.
But all in good time. For now, we gotta get on with the business of actually creating, producing, planning and rehearsing the show. Plus all that again for our Edinburgh show*. Plus running Underground. Plus preparing for our longer term plans, plus other theatre work, plus earning a living and being nice to our family and doing all the other things normal people do.
Oh, and somewhere in there, we should probably fit going to the pub to debate ideas that we think will never happen…
*Which also needs writing – and Mr Shakespeare ain’t help with this one.