Feature | ‘No More #Notallmen’: an open letter from men in theatre

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In light of recent reports of abuse, it has become apparent that many of us have failed to engage with the dark truths that hide beneath the surface of of the theatre industry. Action needs to be taken regarding the treatment of our female colleagues. Men in our industry need to listen, build awareness and stop trying to define others’ experience. We need to learn how our behaviour and language can affect women negatively. We must respect their perspective rather than getting defensive and telling our female colleagues that they are wrong.

This is on all men, and up to all men, to actively stop abuse and harassment. No woman should feel that the male gaze defines her talent and potential to succeed, but it is not enough to simply think this. It is time for all of us to make this happen at all levels.

No more #notallmen.

It’s time for those responsible to face the consequences of abusing their position. We will fully support anyone wishing to come forward and ask for help, allow them to tell their story, and help them take any action possible to stop it from happening again, both to themselves and to others.

We are asking for the creation of an independent, unbiased HR for the creative industries via The Arts Council (or similar body) to help those employers and employees without these resources and provide a vital source of support and recourse for those who desperately need it.

We won’t accept or excuse the behaviour of ‘characters’ regardless of status. We will end the fear of exclusion that has for so long propped up and protected the abusers. That ends now.

Claims that inappropriate language and behaviour are just ‘banter’ is harmful. It is this mindset that allows problems to fester and grow. They must be tackled by all of us head on, whenever and wherever we come across them.

We will work to ensure a safe, welcoming environment of expression. We will listen and not talk over, not justify, and not ignore rumours. Instead, we will reach out to those affected and offer our support.

We are now in the process of creating a living policy document, a link to which we will send out in the next few weeks. In addition to this document, the website that it sits on will also include links to sites and resources that may be useful in whatever capacity. They may include confidential advice services, legal support for anyone who wishes to speak out, or policy and avenues that can be taken regarding HR to seek further information.

We acknowledge our ignorance in this area. We need, request and would greatly appreciate any input, ideas and guidance to help create a charter of principles. These will create the impetus for us all to take meaningful, tangible actions that can be adopted by us all so that we can effect real change.

This is not perfect; it’s a start, not a conclusion, to the problem – let’s talk, listen, learn and together build a new industry that is all the things we imagined the arts were when started out.

Let us be kind, let us be human.

Signed:

Daniel Perks, Tommo Fowler, Will Adolphy, Martin Derbyshire, Leon Fleming, Andrew Darren Elkins, Luke Barnes, John Donnelly, Hector Moyes, Tim Cook, Niall Phillips, Alistair Wilkinson, Alex Dowding, Carl Woodward, Adam Morley, John Byrne, Roberto Iandi, Matthew Dunster, Paul Chesterton

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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Big Guns, Yard Theatre

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Do social media and violence against women go hand in hand? Are we all rendered voyeurs or exhibitionists by the internet? Is the web the downfall of society? Nina Segal’s two-hander Big Guns suggests that the answer to these big questions is a resounding “yes”. The relentless delivery of violent imagery doesn’t tell us anything new about the modern world, but in its red-soaked telling, Segal forces us to take a look at ourselves and decreasing sensitivity to the horrors around us.

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Blood & Bone, VAULT Festival

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By guest critic Alistair Wilkinson (@alistairwilks)

A political satire, blended with sexualised humour, with a sprinkle of fertiliser-addicted plants that just want to have fun with their mates – what more could you ask for on a Wednesday night? The overriding rule of their way of life – do not leave the greenhouse. If you do, be prepared to fall prey to being a part of a hipster vegan’s Instagram post.

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Blush, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 makes sharing explicit images without consent of the person or persons in the images illegal. Though this legislation is progress in fighting revenge porn and posting sexual photos and images online by criminalising it, the problem hasn’t gone away. Charlotte Josephine’s BLUSH tells the stories of five unrelated individuals effected by revenge porn, trolling and the proliferation of easily accessible online pornography. Some of the stories more tenuously link to the theme, but the montage format and frantic, physical interludes provide a wider view of the problem and how people, usually young women, can have their lives ruined by the click of mouse.

Daniel Foxsmith plays a suburban dad with a penchant for teen porn, and a successful app developer invited to speak to young entrepreneurs in New York who makes some bad decisions on a night out. These characters have similar demeanours; Foxsmith could differentiate them further on order make them more distinct. Though they both get themselves into difficult situations, Josephine plays three different women more directly effected by explicit images online. Though two of these characters have anticipated narratives, the third, a ghosted woman with a strong Estuary accent, is a surprise but a great alternative perspective on the issue. All five characters have elements of stereotype, but their responses to their own conflicts reads as genuinely personal through the text and the actors’ interpretations.

Not just interweaving monologues, director Ed Stambollouian incorporates physical sequences that become more frequent and increasingly violent, bleeding into the text. As online and real life blur, emotions intensify, and a photo studio set reminds us that everything we do is on show and ripe for consumption by an anonymous audience of thousands. Josephine has created a good set of characters, though stronger links to the topic would demonstrate the universal risk surrounding revenge porn.

Even though the script is has merit, the use of physical theatre in relation to the issue and the characters’ experiences makes this a much stronger, more evocative production. Without a doubt, this is still an important issue that deserves stage time.

BLUSH runs through 28th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.