Some Positive News

Wheeeww… that “Shows To See in 2020” blog we posted in January feels like it was posted about a decade ago?! But also, it seems like only yesterday we were bumping into pals in theatre bars, foyers, cafes & tunnels, hugging with abandon & rolling our eyes frustratedly about how “nothing in this industry ever changes”… Well, there’s been some changes.

But this isn’t a blog about the future of post-pandemic feminist theatre. We haven’t stopped reeling to be able to think about that. We’ve just put all our plans on pause, for the first time in 4 years, to focus on immediate work and family responsibilities while taking care of ourselves and occasional smaller personal projects (Pippa recently wrote about Something To Look Forward To inspired by Kate Wyver’s piece of the same name, and Beth’s been hosting monthly Queer Diary readings – via Zoom, of course).

At least, we THOUGHT we had put everything on pause, but we haven’t quite. Because something positive is happening! Next week! Yes, this is AN ANNOUNCEMENT post…

An Announcement

As some of you may already know, Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago have just opened a stream of their 2017 production of the stage show based on the work of our hero Alison Bechdel, the Tony Award winning musical FUN HOME.

Next Friday May 22nd Bechdel Theatre are hosting our official Fun Home watch party.

This is an invitation to stream Fun Home online at 7pm UK time (that’s a 1pm matinee Chicago time) & share the experience on Twitter, followed by a post-show opportunity to chat with fellow audience members on Zoom.

Yep, this is our FIRST EVER international post-show conversation.

A photo of 2 teenagers on stage. They're sitting on a bed looking eagerly at each other. They both have short hair. The person on the left is white with a stripy t-shirt, the person on the right is black with a denim waistcoat. 
The image is overlaid with Bechdel Theatre's Logo and Fun Home WATCH PARTY, plus some further details, all as listed below.

How to join the Watch Party

Thanks to a special discount from Victory Gardens Theater tickets are $15 (~£12.20) for all Bechdel Theatre followers. Keep an eye on our Instagram Stories and/or our Newsletter to get the exclusive discount code, then just apply it at the checkout when you book on VictoryGardens.org.

Booking a ticket will (as per Victory Gardens terms) only allow you to access the stream ONCE and once only. So while you’ll be emailed the link to watch straight away, you’ll need to wait until Friday eve if you want to join the watch party. Or book again if you want to watch it twice!

On Friday 22nd at 7pm we’ll all press play simultaneously, and as we do so we’ll be sharing our and your responses to the show live on our Twitter & Instagram accounts.

After the show’s over we’ll open up a Zoom chat for anyone who wants to join us live to share your thoughts/feelings with each other.

Make sure you’re signed up to our Newsletter and/or our Patreon page, because (for security) they’re the only places we’ll be sharing the Zoom link.

For anyone who doesn’t know the story of Fun Home it follows Alison Bechdel’s life from childhood, her coming-of-age, coming out, and her complicated relationship with her father. It comes with some strong content warnings, the biggest one of which is suicide, you can read about the plot here.

We also HIGHLY recommend reading the 2006 graphic-novel memoir that the show’s based on, not to mention the follow-up ‘Are You My Mother’, and 20 years worth of her comics in ‘The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For’, if you can get hold of them (check if your local bookstore is doing deliveries – they need support right now!)

A page from Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (2006)

If You Can’t Afford A Ticket

We know for some that even with a discount this cost will be a barrier, so we’ve set up a “Pay It Forward” PayPal pool to enable as many people as possible to see the show.

If you’re someone with income looking forward to Fun Home, we’re asking you to donate the cost of a ticket (or whatever you can), so that another person will be able to see it as well. We don’t have to worry about fitting everyone into one auditorium for this performance, so the more the merrier!

To request funds for a ticket, email hello@bechdeltheatre.com with the subject: “Fun Home Pay It Forward” & let us know what you need (£12.20 or less) & the easiest way to send it. We won’t ask you any questions. We just want everyone to see this show!

Stay In Touch

We’ve not been online as much as usual, as normally even when we don’t have events or podcast episodes to promote, we focus on sharing positive news from the middle of the Theatre/Feminism Venn diagram and there… Hasn’t been as much going on as usual.

But we miss people. Especially the ones on the Feminism/Theatre Venn, so please do stay in touch. You can email us (hello@bechdeltheatre.com), or tag us (@BechdelTheatre) in anything you’d like signal-boosting, anytime. If you’re creating something, looking for collaboration, or just want to share your thoughts, we’re here.

And we can’t WAIT to see you for Fun Home next Friday!

Much love,

Beth & Pippa

(Oh, you didn’t think we were gonna pass up the chance to share our nerdy Bechdel selfie did you?)

Shows To See 2020

Happy New Year – it’s still appropriate to say that, right? 

Because January is THE longest month, and we still haven’t handed in our tax returns. Yep, we’ve been too distracted making plans for 2020, INCLUDING a massive great list of shows to see in the upcoming months.

It goes without saying that we’re hyped to see the return of many successful shows from artists we already love, but we also love to see so many new names and faces cropping up with amazing looking work, and we’re looking forward to discovering more about all of them. Please join us in seeing as many of these shows as we physically/financially can – and come over for a chat if you spot us across a theatre bar!

Don’t forget you also follow us on instagram and twitter for an ongoing stream of recommendations, and sign up to our newsletter for updates on our upcoming events (including our audience discussions and performance nights), and the occasional theatre ticket discount code. If you subscribe to all our content and discover shows you love through our platforms, please consider supporting us through Patreon, where you can support us by helping to cover our running costs for less than £1 a month.

If you enjoy this list, please also feel free to subscribe to our podcast using whatever app you like, for more regular feminist theatre content (if you are already a fan of the podcast, please do leave us a review to balance out the 2 star comment we got last year, from someone complaining about too much “queer theory”). 

Alright, get your calendar out, it’s time for the recommendations…

In last year’s January blog we said 2019 would belong to Lynette Linton, and we weren’t disappointed. Her first season as Artistic Director at The Bush well and truly lived up to our excitement, and her electric staging of Jackie Kay’s 1986 play Chiaroscuro felt like it could have been written yesterday (house-phone-line conversations aside) – it was a massive highlight of the year. In 2020 at The Bush we’re hyped to see actor and drag performer Temi Wilkey’s playwrighting debut The High Table (Feb 8 – Mar 21) – an epic family drama centred around a queer Nigerian wedding. We also recommend Margaret Perry’s multi-award-winning Collapsible (Feb 5 – Mar 14), which features a magnetic performance from Breffni Holahan as a character teetering in the brink of a breakdown.

It was summer 2018 when we first saw Emma Dennis-Edwards extraordinary Funeral Flowers, but it’s still as fresh in our minds as the overwhelming floral scents that filled the grotty flat it was first staged in – the character of Angelique is so realistically written and performed that we think about her as often as if she was someone we once met. It’s returning for a 4 performances in 2020 at The Roundhouse (Feb 5 – 8) so make sure you don’t miss out.

The Roundhouse is also host to some of the most fantastic physical, poetic, and political performances you could hope to see all year – Emma Frankland’s tender punk battlecry Hearty (Feb 27 – 29), and Rachael Young’s double bill of shows full of sensuous sensory-overload and supersonic self-expression: Out (May 1 – 2) which reclaims Dancehall and Voguing from homophobia and transphobia, and Nightclubbing (May 7- 9) an explosive ode to Grace Jones and Afrofuturism.

Nightclubbing at The Roundhouse

The Barbican is bringing Schaubühne Berlin’s Katie Mitchell/Alice Birch adaptation of Orlando to its main stage in April, while downstairs in The Pit you can see devised work from feminist companies throughout the year with Diverse City’s show about menopause Mid Life (Feb 19 – 22), Breach Theatre’s It’s True, It’s True, It’s True (Mar 31 – Apr 9), Split Britches’ Last Gasp (Jun 9 – 13), and Rhiannon Faith’s DROWNTOWN (Jun 30 – Jul 4).

The Cockpit Theatre is having a bit of an Ancient Greek inspired feminist moment in two of their upcoming shows: HOT (Helen Of Troy) (Feb 5 – 8) which uses the story of “the face that launched a thousand ships” to interrogate modern beauty standards; and Fusion Theatre’s feminist ensemble retelling of the Medusa myth (Mar 2 – 6)  – every performance of which is captioned, audio-described and includes a touch tour, in line with the company’s declared commitment to accessible theatre.

Omnibus Theatre have emerged as one of South London’s finest gems since they first popped up on the edge of Clapham Common in 2013. In 2019 we were delighted to hear that they had a refurbishment to make their foyer spaces more open and accessible for the public during daytimes as well as evenings – their shiny new bar and cafe is now open, so go check it out and catch some of their 2020 programme while you’re there. We recommend: the amazing Vera Chok in Aunty Vera’s Anti-Valentines Evening, The Family Jewels’ MANdemic: A Drag King Cabaret(following last year’s sell-out at VAULT Festival), and The Apologists, which looks at the art, expectations, and limitations of the public apology. We’re also looking forward to Omnibus’ annual 96 Festival, which has become an unmissable date for the diaries of anyone interested in queer performance of all genres and for all ages.

MANdemic: A Drag King Cabaret at Omnibus Theatre

New Diorama is continuing an increasingly strong tradition of supporting excellent ensemble companies (in recent years they’ve been involved with some of the best – Queens of Sheba, Tokyo Rose, and War of the Worlds), upcoming shows that look interesting from a Bechdel-testing perspective are The Incident Room by Olivia Hirst & David Byrne (Feb 11 – Mar 14), Shorts and Socks Included by Lost Watch (Mar 31 – May 2), and The PappyShow’s Wait Til The End (May 19 – 30).

One of the most dazzlingly brilliant writer-performer pieces we’ve seen in recent years, Racheal Ofori’s So Many Reasons, is coming to Soho Theatre (Mar 2 – 7). It’s the most charismatic performance of a piece filled with the level of detailed humour and pathos that completely envelops you. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy Racheal’s work on such an intimate stage, she’s fresh from a stellar performance in Inua Ellams’ critically acclaimed adaptation of Three Sisters at the National Theatre (playing until Feb 19), and is quite obviously destined for megastardom.

Another rising superstar coming to Soho Theatre with a show we love is Andrea Spisto, whose cabaret clown show/concept album Butch Princesa easily charms even the most interaction-averse-audience-members with its warm heart, tender vulnerability and throbbing beats. Catch it on March 19 -20, and keep your eye out for her next move.

The Welkin at The National Theatre

Speaking of The National Theatre, it’s not often they have a lot on for us to recommend – and tbh we’re feeling less than represented by their ADs recent article in The Stage which verged on fawning over the most toxic of Prime Ministers (because he likes Shakespeare?!). That being said, we’re finding it hard to resist The Welkin (until May 21) – a huge-scale look at justice and authority with an ace ensemble cast of women and stunning design from Bunny Christie. We’re also excited to hear that comedian and activist Francesca Martinez is making her debut as a playwright and leading the ensemble cast in All Of Us at The Dorfman (Mar 18 – May 16).

The Bunker Theatre‘s final season (rip) of takeovers is entirely focussed around handing the keys to people who are less often represented on UK stages, so it’s hard to pick and choose which ones to recommend, and if you’re London-based we’d advise visiting as often as possible before it closes to show support for the ethos of the team who’ve run this building for the past year: The Space Is Yours (Feb 3 – 7), Queers Up Front (Feb 10 – 15), Everywoman & other confessions (Feb 17 – 22), The Upsetters (Feb 24 – 29), Natasha Brown: Power x Resistance (Mar 2 – 7), Sabrina Mahfouz: Lilith & Karaokay (Mar 10 – 14), Morgan & Abi’s Power Share (Mar 16 – 21), and Where Do We Go Next (Mar 24 – 28).

Battersea Arts Centre is this year’s host of Devoted & Disgruntled, Improbable Theatre’s annual open-space gathering which brings together people from every aspect of theatre and performing arts (yes everyone, from front of house to artistic directors) to talk and work together on an equal platform. Tickets are Pay What You Can, and their open-space method of organising has a “come when you like” policy – though the space will be officially open from 11am on Feb 8 – 10. Bechdel Theatre was born in a D&D open space, so we’re always excited to get stuck into some more invigorating conversations with potential future collaborators and industry allies. 

Autoreverse at Battersea Arts Centre

Another thing getting us excited at BAC is their Going Global spring season, which includes Autoreverse (Feb 3 – 22) from the Director of Misty Omar Elerian – it takes as its starting point the cassette tapes Florencia Cordeu’s family used to stay in touch with loved ones after fleeing Argentina’s dictatorship for Chile. Other shows we’re looking forward to in this season include Sonia Hughes and Jo Fong’s series of intimate conversations Neither Here Nor There (May 4 – 9); Sleepwalk Collective’s psychadelic dance theatre piece Swimming Pools (May 5 – 7); and Lucy McCormick’s subversive, immersive, pop concert spectacular Life: LIVE! (May 19 – 30)

Hannah Khalil’s latest play, A Museum In Baghdad, premiered last year at The RSC in Stratford, and is coming to London’s Kiln Theatre this year (April 22 – May 23). It tells the stories of two women in Iraq separated by 80 years, but united in their goal to create a museum. We can never forget Scenes From 68* Years – Hannah Khalil’s 2016 play about the occupation of Palestine, and can’t wait to see how she and RSC Deputy AD Erica Whyman work together to represent these real women grappling with the questions of what role museums can really play in creating unity.

Our Name Is Not John at The Arcola (Sept 9 – Oct 10) is the latest play from Sarah Kosar, she’s of the most distinctive playwriting voices we’ve heard in recent years (in Mumburger and Armadillo), and her new play is a satirical take on control through capitalism – via THAT famous statistic about CEOs called John. 

At The Royal Court, you have only a few weeks left to see Scenes With Girls – until Feb 22, after which we recommend Sarah Hanley’s Purple Snowflakes And Titty Wanks Jun 29 – Jul 11 (put safesearch on before you google that); Nanjing Jul 21 – Aug 1 Jude Christian’s personal response to the 1973 massacre (this show is also touring the 7 countries which make up its story); and Aleshea Harris’ Is God Is Jul 20 – Aug 15, about twins avenging their mother’s past in the Calafornia desert.

Nanjing at The Royal Court (photo by Caleb Wissun-Bhide)

Plus there’s another welcome chance to see Debris Stephenson’s Dizzee Rascal inspired coming-of-age story Poet in da Corner, which is back at the Royal Court in Feb after its triumphant first outing in 2018, and is then off on tour to Belfast, Leicester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester, and Hackney.

One of our new year’s resolutions EVERY YEAR is to get out of London more often (maybe we should try and make a travel budget instead of resolutions? Pls fund us thx), so with that in mind, here are some recommendations for shows going North, South, East and West beyond the M25.

Physical Theatre masterminds Frantic Assembly have recently teamed up in creative collaboration with the legendary Kathy Burke to co-direct their latest production, I Think We Are Alone by Sally Abbott – it’s touring from Feb 3 to Plymouth, Edinburgh, Stratford East, Leicester, Southampton, Guildford, Newcastle, Bristol, Oxford, and Salford.

Paines Plough have an unshakeable reputation for touring brilliant new writing (that we often also rate highly when looking at representation on stage), and they have an exciting looking year coming up, with shows including Run Sister Run by Chloë Moss which is at Sheffield Theatres Feb 27 – Mar 21, and Soho Theatre Mar 25 – May 2, and Moon Licks by Charlotte Josephine which opens in Cardiff on March 17, and will be followed by a London run in April. PP’s Roundabout touring stage will continue to bring the best playwrights to all corners of the country in 2020, with this year’s programme including Hungry by Chris Bush, Black Love by Chinonyerem Odimba, The Inconvenience Store by Charlotte Keatley.

Electric Rosary at Manchester Royal Exchange

Manchester Royal Exchange has a great year coming up, filled with award-winning shows, including Winsome Pinnock’s new play Rockets and Blue Lights (Mar 12 – Apr 4) which retells British history through the prism of the slave trade, and Electric Rosary (Jun 15 – Jul 4) which brings together nuns and robots.

Augmented is Sophie Wolley’s personal story about the joy and conflict of becoming ‘hearing’ again after being activated as a real-life ‘cyborg’, via a cochlear implant, following 22 years of progressive deafness. See it this March, when it’ll be in Manchester, Birmingham, Salisbury, Plymouth, and Cambridge.

Rhum & Clay’s take on The War of The Worlds is written with Isley Lynn, and centres around a woman journalist unearthing the stories behind Orson Welles radio broadcast and HG Wells novel. Listen to Isley talk about the show on our podcast, and see it on tour this spring/summer, if you’re anywhere near Southampton, Ipswich, Newbury, Portsmouth, Exeter, Newcastle, Derby and Leeds.

Trojan Horse takes its name from the 2013 media storm around the supposed “plot” to radicalise Muslim schoolchildren. Lung Theatre’s docu-theatre production foregrounds the perspectives of teachers and children who were affected by the media coverage and targeted by the government’s Prevent strategy. Listen to our podcast with Madiha Ansari for more about the show, and then see it this year in Luton, Leicester, Sheffield, Oldham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Exeter, Bedford, Derby, Oxford, and Warwick.

Fatty Fat Fat Katie Greenall’s hilarious and provocative solo show is the anti-diet riot that needs to be seen and heard as loudly as possible, as we creep from ‘New Year New Me’ time to ‘beach body’-fascism season. Go join her for a cha-cha-slide, a packet of crisps, and a frank insight into what it’s like living in a body that the world tells you to hate. Touring to Cardiff, Leicester, Slough, Nottingham, Exeter, Oxford, Harlow, Bath, Guildford, and Derby

Testmatch is on our radar as a play about a world we’ve not seen represented on stage before – that of international women’s cricket. Testmatch is set in England in 2020 and in India in 1800, but interestingly the play has originated in the US. We’re intrigued to see an American’s take on the politics of such a famously un-American sport. It’s at Theatre Royal Bath from April 2, then touring.

Testmatch at Theatre Royal Bath

Finally, it woudn’t be a new year blog (and it wouldn’t have taken us this long to write) if we weren’t looking towards VAULT Festival and its overwhelming selection of fringe shows, with a mix of brand new work having its first outing and tried-and-tested shows popping in as part of a wider tour. 

The festival has been criticised in the past for its lack of representation (despite having made headlines for having over 50% womxn artists, the majority of last year’s festival awards went to white artists – an indication not only of bias in the panel, but also of the whiteness of the programme overall). This year, they have a new programming team and look to be making solid steps towards improving representation. Importantly, they’re also helping audiences to make active choices, by introducing filters on their website which allow ticket-buyers to consider who’s represented on the creative teams of shows they see (alongside the more commonly used filters based on genres, styles, age suitability, access requirements etc). Petition to bring this method to more theatre and festival websites soon, please – it’s really helpful to be able to access this information without having to crowdsource a google spreadsheet.

We definitely encourage the use of those filters to find the representation you’re craving most at VAULT 2020, but we couldn’t resist a quick skim for ourselves, so here’s a few that we personally recommend:

Feminist theatre faves (creators of Coconut and Ladykiller) The Thelmas have two shows in the tunnels this year: Santi & Naz (Jan 28 – Feb 2) is a portrayal of female friendship in pre-partition India, and Notch (Feb 19 – 23) is a solo show about a Croatian woman sleeping rough in Dublin. 

Santi & Naz at VAULT Festival

Popelei’s Push (Jan 28 – Feb 2) is a dance show about the existential crisis of motherhood starring a very pregnant performer. 

Sold (Jan 28 – Feb 2) is the true story of Mary Prince, who was born into enslavement on British owned Bermuda, and went on to become a beacon for the anti-slavery movement in Britain, told through theatre, song, drumming, and dance.

This Bitch Can Heal (Jan 28 – 30) an intimate solo show by Pink Splat Productions – who came together as part of the Arcola’s Queer Collective. This Bitch Can Heal tells the story of Jack’s obsession with Extinction Rebellion and its impact on their relationship with their girlfriend. 

Lucy Hopkins Ceremony of Golden Truth (Jan 31, Feb 7 & 14) a spiritual transformation -or an exposing social experiment? Either way, Lucy Hopkins Ceremony is an experience you won’t forget. We adored this outrageously truthful, gloriously comic moment in the presence of a glowing clown priestess.

Lucy Hopkins Ceremony of Golden Truth at VAULT Festival

drop dead gorgeous (Feb 1 & 15) by Same Same (an international interdisciplinary collective of women from India, Taiwan and the UK) is a brand new darkly comic exploration of femininity and appetite.

Be Longing (Feb 4 – 8) Follows two queer womxn as they navigate the edges of morality in a dystopian tale of genetic engineering, baby showers and losing love.

Since U Been Gone (Feb 4 – 9) is an autobiographical show about grief and discovery, featuring plenty of mid-noughties pop music (listen to our podcast with writer/performer Teddy Lamb recorded just before their Edinburgh Fringe run).

Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man that used to hit her) (Feb 5 – 9) by Martha Watson Allpress is back by popular demand after its first run at The White Bear theatre. It looks at surviving trauma, and aims to shatter the stereotype of the ‘broken woman’.

Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man that used to hit her) at VAULT Festival

Gobby (Feb 4- 9), in which writer/performer Jodie Irvine’s biting comedy about what it means to be loud doubles as a lesson in how to throw a really good party.

On Arriving (Feb 4 – 9) is an emotionally-charged depiction of one woman’s refugee experience, performed by an actor with a deep personal connection to the subject, and staged in support of Refugee Action.

When The Sea Swallows Us Whole (Feb 5, 7, 9) is a queer love story set in an eroding town on the East coast where some people have just weeks before losing their homes to the ocean. The cast includes Jacoba Williams who most recently won the hearts of audiences and critics alike with her tour-de-force solo performance in Before I Was A Bear at The Bunker.

Gorgon: A Horror Story (Feb 5 – 9) Elf Lyons new show is described as “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre meets Medusa” with family fighting, female rage, and taxidermy. Not for the faint hearted.

Gorgon: A Horror Story at VAULT Festival

TALK PROPA (Feb 11 – 13) is a celebration of all things northern, and a two-woman f*ck you to accent-prejudice, stereotypes, and the southern elite.

The 4th Country (Feb 11 – 16) examines the ways in which global political decisions impact the lives of ordinary people in Northern Ireland, by theatre company Plain Heroines who depict women whose lives may be messy and seemingly un-extraordinary, or those whose stories have been hidden and forgotten.

Tinted (Feb 11 – 16) is a revolutionary disabled response to the #metoo hashtag. Staged as accessibly as possible and written by disabled playwright Amy Bethan Evans, Tinted is the debut full-length monologue from Scripped Up, championing D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent writers.

Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands (Feb 11 – 16) is Melissa Dunnes inky black comedy that explores mental health in a world that prefers easy answers to uncomfortable truths. Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands originated as a short play written for our Bechdel Testing Life project in 2017, and is produced by Papercut Theatre whose previous VAULT shows, Lola and Dangerous Lenses, were amongst the most thrillingly unnerving and expertly executed shows of 2019.

Splintered (Feb 12 – 16) is a queer Caribbean carnival of rebellion against growing up in a homophobic culture, based on interviews with queer women in Trinidad & Tobago. Listen to our podcast with Lagahoo Theatre director Emily Aboud and performer Charlotte Dowding.

Splintered at VAULT Festival

Bible John (Feb 12 – 16) investigates women’s fascination with ‘true crime’ through the eyes of a group of friends who become obsessed with a podcast about one of the UKs most notorious serial killers.

Jollof Wars (Feb 14 – 16) is a culture clash, told through the lens of a Nigerian chef and her Ghanaian fiancé. Historically, Africans have debated who makes the tasty dish best. The question is… what’s really at stake? From award-winning playwright and actress Gail Egbeson.

Bloody Caliph (Feb 18 – 19) After last year’s successful sold-out run of Inside Voices, Lazy Native return with Bloody Caliph by Nabilah Said. Two women strike an unlikely friendship in a Garden Centre. In a prosaic setting, ugliness creeps in. Lazy Native are an international theatre collective championing Southeast Asian narratives, Bloody Caliph explores issues surrounding Islamophobia, race relations, female kinship and legacy.

Glamrou: From Quran to Queen (Feb 19 – 20) In this blisteringly funny and political debut, Iraqi Muslim drag sensation Glamrou serenades their lover, Allah, with love songs, break-up songs and minaret-sized wigs.

Glamrou: From Quran to Queen at VAULT Festival

Apple (Feb 21 – 22) by Cheryl Ndione is a darkly comic and introspective look at a less-than-rosy mother-daughter relationship, and the inherited trauma passed through generous from navigating misogynoir. Produced by The Upsetters who make theatre by writers, directors and performers of colour (see also their brilliant-looking Bunker takeover, listed above).

Madame Ovary (Feb 18 – 24), Rosa Hesmondhalgh’s beautiful show about surviving ovarian cancer in her early 20s is at VAULT as part of a country-wide tour, with tickets also still available (and selling quickly at the time of writing) for performances in Guildford, Hull, Cardiff, Birmingham, and Manchester. 

DUAL دوگانه (Feb 19 – 23) by magnificently multi-talented actor/puppeteer/theatremaker Peyvand Sadeghian – you may recognise her from I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream (one of our favourites at VAULT 2018), and widely-acclaimed performances in Turkey at The Hope Theatre, Rich Kids of Tehran at Edinburgh Fringe 2019. DUAL دوگانه is her autobiographical debut: a theatrical mosaic of drag, poetry, puppetry, and interviews telling the story of 10-year-old Peyvand’s first visit to Iran to visit her father’s family, for which she took on a new passport, and a new name.

Belly Up (Feb 23) a new comedy set in London in the reign of mad King George. After killing her master’s son, Liberty tries to escape her inevitable death sentence by ‘pleading the belly’ – all Libby has to do is convince a jury she’s up the duff. The problem is, she isn’t, and nor – being a lesbian stuck in the women’s ward – is she likely to become so…

Blow: A Deaf Girl’s Fight (Feb 25 – Mar 1) challenges the treatment of d/Deaf people on stage, screen and in real life, through a part-immersive part-musical show about a d/Deaf girl joining a boxing club. 

Second Home (Feb 26 – 28) is Charlotte Chimuanya’s poetic play tackling grief and racism from London to Galway on the West Coast of Ireland.

Too Pretty To Punch at VAULT Festival

Too Pretty To Punch (Mar 3 – 8) is Edalia Day’s visual spectacular that rejects categorisation – both of gender and genre, as it celebrates trans existence using poetry, banjo music, explosive movement, and stunningly designed, timed and choreographed projections. Too Pretty To Punch is touring throughout the spring, and can also be seen in Norwich, Oxford, Stockton, Salford, Liverpool, Leicester, Leeds, Exeter, Luton, and Cambridge.

V&V (Mar 3 – 8) charts the narratives of two queer couples: the iconic love story of literary treasure Virginia Woolf and esteemed socialite Vita Sackville-West; and a far newer story of Lottie from Tunbridge Wells and love cynic Mia.

Closed Lands (Mar 3 – 8) is a multimedia production based on research and testimonies, in which an all-migrant, all-female cast chronicles the “free world’s obsession with walls from Berlin to Mexico.

Heroine (Mar 4 – 8) is Lizzie Milton’s third play at VAULT (following 2018’s The Breaks In You And I and 2019’s 10), and latest collaboration with Snatchback – a theatre company devoted to improving the representation of women. Heroine uses stories from across the world – from Nigeria, Mexico, and The Arctic to create an evening celebrating fairytale heroines.

The Kola Nut Does Not Speak English at VAULT Festival

The Kola Nut Does Not Speak English (Mar 10 – 22) by Tania Nwachukwu explores the cultural history of a first generation Nigerian-British woman of Igbo descent as we follow the people of Eze as they fight to preserve their beloved kola tree. This show is produced by Noveau Riche, the multi-award-winning company behind fringe hit show Queens Of Sheba.

Blood Rites (Mar 10 – 12) by Eileen Bellot explores rites of passage and intergenerational connections, and looks for the wisdom of the elder in an age where youth is revered and women feel compelled to polyfill every crack on their face.

Northern Stage‘s takeover featuring artists based in the North East of England, including prosecco-fuelled gig-theatre And She by Bonnie and The Bonnettes (Feb 8 – 9), and Melody Sproates *gender not included (Feb 4 – 6) a 100% lipsynced cabaret about self-discovery and acceptance (you can also catch *gender not inlcuded in Newcastle, Stockton, and at Camden People’s Theatre)

Plant Fetish at VAULT Festival

Plant Fetish (Mar 21 – 22) by performance artist and poet Chanje Kunda who, after suffering with stress and anxiety, was inspired by stories of women in Mexico who, fed up with men, were getting married to trees.

Invisibles (Mar 17 – 22) by Argentinian writer Lola Lagos platforms the voices of two Latin women who despite being robbed from their dignity and freedom, never succumb to losing their spirit.

Last but not least, if you’re going to see an evening show (or two) at VAULT Festival don’t forget to check out their fantastic programme of late night revelries which are always worth sticking around for. Make a night of it and party with our faves: Pecs (Feb 1),  Frisky (Feb 14), Pussy Liquor (Feb 15), The Bitten Peach (Feb 28), Brazilian Wax (Feb 29), LADS (Mar 7), and The Cocoa Butter Club (Mar 20).

A reminder for those of you who’ve got this far that you can follow us on instagram, twitter, and facebook. You can also sign up to our newsletter, support us on Patreon, and subscribe to our podcast

If you spot a mistake in this blog (not one goes by without a dyslexic error or 2), tell us about a show we haven’t seen yet, or just say hello, feel free email us on hello@bechdeltheatre.com

Beth & Pippa x

Autumn 2019 Shows To See

Autumn is well and truly upon us.

It’s the season of golden leaves, shiny new stationary, and finding warm theatres to shelter us from increasingly volatile weather systems and rolling news cycles.

Hopefully you’re here because you’d prefer to spend your hour-or-so inside the theatre with artists who engage in challenging the evil systems behind the apocalyptic atmosphere of this world right now. If so, you are in the right place. We’ve got so much good stuff to energise and soothe your activist souls.

Open your diaries and prepare to make space for these treats to take you through Halloween-season and beyond…

SHOWS TO SEE THIS SEASON


Apphia Campbell’s tour-de-force solo show Woke, about Black women from two different generations of activism, is at Stratford Circus on Oct 4 – 5, and Black Is The Colour Of My Voice, her play inspired by Nina Simone, is currently touring, heading to London, Hull, Basingstoke, and the Netherlands in November.

Chiaroscuro marks Lynette Linton’s directorial debut as AD of The Bush has been making waves of all the best kinds. The new gig-theatre production of Jackie Kay’s 1986 play celebrates the lives of queer women of colour across generations with spoken word and a live score by Shiloh Coke. You only have a couple of days left to catch it – until Oct 5.

Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp., Caryl Churchill’s new collection of short plays inspired by stories and myths are showing at the Royal Court until Oct 12. Also at the Royal Court, Sabrina Mahfouz’s new play A History Of Water In The Middle East uses poetry and music to share stories of women across the Middle East. Directed by Stef O’Driscoll, A History Of Water  will explore how the water of the Middle East has enabled British power through the ages, via Sabrina’s experience as a British Egyptian applying to be a spy.

Marking 25 years since the Rwandan genocide, Our Lady of Kibeho is latest work from Olivier Award-winning writer Katori Hall, whose previous plays include Tina: The Tina Turner Musical and The Mountaintop. At Theatre Royal Stratford East until Nov 2.

[Blank] by Alice Birch is Clean Break’s latest production, described as a “theatrical provokation” exploring the impact of the criminal justice system on women and their families at The Donmar Warehouse until Nov 30.

Lilly Burton’s All Aboard At Termination Station is the funniest show we’ve ever seen about abortion. Lilly’s extraordinary energy and glorious comic timing hold her in perfect stead as she articulates the arguments for access and challenges stigma through a frank account of her own abortion experiences. At Clapham Fringe Oct 7 – 8. Lilly is also appearing at Abortion Rights Abortion Cabaret at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club on Nov 6.

Part cabaret clown show, part autobiographical concept-album, Andrea Spisto’s Butch Princesa offers a new perspective on pansexuality, penetration, and Harry Potter. Andrea fills every performance she makes with a heart that beats so loudly you can’t help but dance in your seats. At The Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol as part of Papaya Festival on Oct 11.

Omnibus Theatre’s fifth year of Perception Festival is taking place throughout October in their gorgeously welcoming space by Clapham common. This year’s theme for the festival is Nasty Women, with a focus on feminist theatre. The festival’s headline show Femme Fatale (Oct 8 – 27) imagines a 1968 meeting between two pop culture icons Nico and Valerie Solanas. Also on at Omnibus: The Cocoa Butter Club cabaret (Oct 18), Somalia Seaton’s play I’d Rather Go Blind (until Oct 5), and Havisham (Oct 15 – 19).

Soho Theatre is the London home to some of our favourite transfers from this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, from comedy and theatre to cabaret and live art. We recommend checking out:

Lemon by Catherine Bohart. Catherine named her show for a woman in a yellow cardigan who objected to her previous show’s merest mention of her bisexuality. In Lemon, she addresses her sexuality in more detail (just to make sure there are no more bigots lingering in her audience), jokes about her relationship with fellow comic Sarah Keyworth, and delivers a feminist revelation about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (until Oct 5).

Shit Theatre’s “excuse to drink on stage” Drink Rum With Ex-Pats. It’s actually a fury-inducing politically charged documentary, in which the duo’s holiday to Malta turns into a searing wake-up-call to government corruption, organised crime, press silencing, and the horrific treatment of refugees occurring on EU shores (Oct 8 – 19).

Venus is super-smart comic and long-time Bechdel fave Sophie Duker’s debut stand-up hour. She recounts her lifetime of seeking Black representation in the media (from kids TV to adult movies) through the medium of rolling punchlines and ridiculously satisfying call-backs, all the while staying wonderfully on-brand by cheerily taking the white guys of the front row down a peg or two. (Oct 29 – Nov 2).

In Desiree’s Coming Early, Desiree Burch weaves an existential journey out of a storytelling stand-up show. At her trademark break-neck gallop pace, she whisks us with her on a trip to Burning Man which (unlike any of the “gap yah” versions of the drugs-and-soul-seeking narrative you’ve heard before) is not only uproariously hilarious, but resonates emotionally and politically, and packs a philosophical punch. (Nov 11 – 23).

Lucy McCormick’s Post Popular is a blistering parody of Basic White Feminist takes on “women’s history”. Smothered in several sticky layers of self- and audience-awareness, Lucy uses her popstar vs art-wanker persona to play into and then explode expectations of both cabaret-camp-fun-show and Serious Political Art Piece. The diva/backup dancers trope is the sharpest tool in this whole show, with genius performances from Rhys Hollis and Samir Kennedy elevating the irony to supreme levels and subverting Post-Popular’s “Herstory” theme to the max (Dec 3 – 14).

As well as hosting many of our Edinburgh Fringe faves’ London transfers this year, there’s some exciting looking brand new work to check out at Soho: Shuck N Jive (Oct 2 – 26)  is a collaboration between opera singer Simone Ibbett-Brown and actor Cassiopeia Berkeley-Agyepong with music, laughter and searing honesty, and Not F**kn’ Sorry (Oct 29 – Nov 1) is a shameless sexy punk crip cabaret from Not Your Circus Dog collective.

The Pleasance Theatre are showcasing some of the shows from their Edinburgh Fringe 2019 programme at their Islington theatre over the coming months. Our favourites include: Algorithms (Oct 8 – 10) a bisexual Bridget Jones for the online generation; Bible John (Nov 2 – 3) a frantic and furious investigation into male violence and women’s fascination with true crime; and Madame Ovary (Nov 8 – 12) a heartbreaking life-affirming love-letter to the NHS by cancer survivor Rosa Hesmondhalgh.

This autumn Camden People’s Theatre will be home to some of the most original and inspiring solo shows of 2019. Forbruker, Frankie Thompson’s ingenious clown/drag show satirises advertising and consumerism with intense commitment and flawless lip-syncing. It had us crying with laughter (and just a tiny bit of terror) when we saw it earlier this year. It’s back for just two nights this month, 15 – 16 Oct.

In November at CPT we’re looking forward to Teddy Lamb’s Since U Been Gone (Nov 19 – 20) . In a nostalgic pop-culture mash-up about grief and healing – Teddy reaches out over the years to remember a lost friend and ends up making a disarmingly sincere (but never sentimental) connection with their own past self. Listen to our podcast interview with Teddy Lamb and Mika Johnson.

In I, AmDram Hannah Maxwell’s inimitable wit and charm bridge the gap between the worlds of amateur dramatics and edgy live art as she recounts a life lived straddling two very different performance worlds. This cosy gem of a show is arriving at CPT in perfect time to warm your cockles as winter closes in, Nov 26 – 30.

Burnt Lemon’s new musical Tokyo Rose is one of the freshest productions to come out of Edinburgh Fringe this year. This 1940s tale of fake news and American racism feels unmistakably modern and incredibly timely. It tells the story of a Japanese American woman accused of treason on returning home after the war. The winner of the New Diorama & Underbelly Untapped 2019, Tokyo Rose has all the makings of a Hamilton-meets-Six cult classic, so catch it before it goes global at New Diorama Oct 8 – 12.

Travis Alabanza’s rallying cry for allyship, Burgerz is on tour across the UK and Ireland until Dec 1. Locations include Dublin (Oct 6-12), Newcastle, Glasgow, Warwick, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge and London’s Southbank Centre. Book quickly or prepare to queue for returns because most dates are selling out fast. Listen to our podcast interview with Travis.

Bait Theatre are performing their brilliantly bizarre anti-fairytale clown-riot Kill The Princess at Trestle Arts Base in St Albans on Oct 11 (where they’re also running a workshop on the shows themes and devising process). Back in London, they are hosting their cabaret night The Office Party (for those without an office) at VFD in Dalston on Oct 19.

Multi-talented Zawe Ashton is best known as an actor, but she’s also an accomplished writer (she recently published her first novel). Her new play for all the women who thought they were   Mad examines the myriad of forces that collide and conspire against black women living in contemporary Britain today. It premieres with Hackney Showroom at Stoke Newington Town Hall and runs Oct 14 – Nov 9.

Out Of Sorts is the latest play by Danusia Samal, in which a British Muslim millennial woman living a double life is forced to confront her real identity. It won the International Playwrighting Award 2018 and is running at Theatre503 from Oct 9 – Nov 2.

Emma Frankland’s post-apocalyptic ritual for survival, Hearty, was one of our highlights of Edinburgh Fringe 2019. For her next project, We Dig, she is bringing together a company of trans femmes (including Travis Alabanza – see Burgerz above) to literally smash the system, as they demolish South London’s Ovalhouse building prior to the theatre’s relocation to their new premises in Brixton. Oct 5 – 19.

I’m A Phoenix, Bitch is Bryony Kimmings latest and boldest show to date. It takes the autobiographical performance style that she’s become legendary for and blows it up to epic scale with devastating emotional impact. Dealing with a chapter of Bryony’s life that involves her breakdown in the throes of new-motherhood, and subsequent recovery, Phoenix is food for the soul as well as a multimedia feast for the senses. At HOME in Manchester Nov 26 – 30.

It’s True, It’s True, It’s True – Breach Theatre’s battlecry adaptation of a Renaissance-era rape trial had a huge impact on us, and just about everyone else who saw it at Edinburgh Fringe 2018, and is now on UK tour until Nov 23. Locations include Manchester, Doncaster, Sheffield, Nottingham, Newcastle, East Riding, Warwick, Salisbury York, Plymouth, Oxford, Halifax and Leeds.

Queens of Sheba Nouveau Riche’s magnetic poetic exposé of misogynoir has gone from sell-out to sell-out since debuting in 2017 (listen to our podcast episode talking about the Queens’ first outing back then). Now with a new cast, it’s on tour across the UK until Nov 29. Stops include Derby, Nottingham, Warwick, Manchester, Sheffield, Bristol, Essex, and London’s Battersea Arts Centre.

Trojan Horse by Lung Theatre is adapted from real testimonies of those involved in a widely-reported investigation into Muslim teachers accused of radicalising school children. It takes a critical look at media scapegoating, “British values”, and the government’s toxic Prevent strategy, examining both the political motivations behind the accusations and reports, and the devastating impact on the communities involved. It’s on UK tour this Autumn, going to Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Halifax, Liverpool, Huddersfield, Doncaster, Hull, Lancaster, Norwich, Mold, Bradford, London, and Birmingham from Oct 8 – Nov 21.

Fringe Wives Club are the cabaret collective you can count on for a raucous night of sparkly patriarchy-slamming. They’re on tour across the UK throughout October with their disco-dazzling feminist party show Glittery Clittery, heading to Nottingham, Sheffield, Exeter and Wellingborough.

Red Palace is the latest show from Shotgun Carousel, the team behind last year’s mythical Divine Proportions. This immersive dining experience is inspired by the dark side of fairytales, and stars some of London’s finest cabaret, circus, burlesque and theatre performers. At The Vaults until Jan 12.

#EdFringe2019: More shows on our radar

We’ve been in Edinburgh for a couple of weeks now, hunting down the best & most Bechdel-friendly theatre, comedy and performance – and there are still 10 more days left to catch any you’ve missed out on so far!

If you’re in Edinburgh for this final stretch and still looking for recommendations with representation in mind, we can guarantee that a scroll through this list and our pre-Fringe shows-to-see blog will leave you spoilt for choice, whether you’re looking for belly-shaking lols, heartbreaking drama, or mind-expanding live art.

We’ve also recorded three podcasts so far, featuring some of the finest Fringe artists (in our opinion) listen to: Mika Johnson & Teddy Lamb talking Pink Lemonade & Since U Been Gone, Travis Alabanza on Burgerz, and Emily Aboud & Charlotte Dowding chatting about Splintered – they also all have some great recommendations to offer.

We’ll be back at the end of the festival to give you a more detailed write-up of our very favourite shows from #EdFringe2019. Don’t forget to keep an eye on our insta stories and twitter feed for constant updates on our stickering adventures, and reactions to the shows we love most.

Deer Woman 14:30 CanadaHub

Presented by Indigenous Contemporary Scene, ARTICLE 11’s Deer Woman is a comedic-dramatic solo warrior-woman work of righteous vengeance about one of 1,600 officially recognised missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

Life’s No Laughing Matter 13:00 Summerhall

Life is No Laughing Matter’s a performance about mental illness, suicide and radical cure attempts. It tells the exhausting and hilarious account of living with depression, from the urgency of finding a cure, dissecting the cultural disease, to eating a f*ck ton of bananas. Expect shit metaphors, codependency, holy water and Yoko Ono.

Citizens of Nowhere? 14:00/16:00 Sweet Novotel

British-Chinese matriarch Linda Lo shares news with her son, Jun Chi and daughter, Jane; but Jane has big news too. This intimate performance by actors seated among the audience is experienced through headphones, as if eavesdropping, and includes light refreshments.

Desiree Burch: Desiree’s Coming Early 19:40 Heroes @ The Hive

At a time when progress has given way to authoritarianism and disintegration, comedian and storyteller Desiree Burch embarks on a soul-searching journey of mythically ridiculous proportions in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, to learn something deeper about how she, and all of us, have gotten here.

E8 16:10 Pleasance Dome

‘When you see a scar you know someone’s had pain, but if you can’t see it how would you know?’ In a school for excluded pupils in Hackney, Bailey waits for a decision that could change her life, whilst her headteacher prepares to leave it all behind. Marika Mckennell’s new play is directed by Fringe First winner Ria Parry.

Cerys Bradley & Rachel Wheeley: The Unfortunate Bisexual 21:00 The Street

What does it mean to be bisexual? No, actually, what does it mean? Are we doing it right? How can you tell? Join us for an hour of comedy as confusing as coming out. As ridiculous as explaining the ins and outs of attraction to everyone you meet. There will be jokes, tangents and graphs, because why have one thing when you can have many?

Kill The Princess 15:40 Heroes @ The Spiegelyurt

What happens when the glass slipper doesn’t fit? Is it time to put a bullet in the princess’ head? In a savagely playful subversion of identity Lizzy Shakespeare and Michelle Madsen upend beliefs and expectations using clown, spoken word and live art to create a genre-defying work which teases and provokes.

Kayla MacQuarrie: Traumatised 11:45 Just The Tonic @ The Mash House

Kayla MacQuarrie is Traumatised. She’ll tell lots of jokes about it though so stick with her and we’ll all be okay. From an Essex-based, sad, weird kid to a less sad, trans, lesbian loudmouth. She’s grown up, gotten hurt and she’s still here and ready to share in her debut hour. 

Sons & Co: Let’s Get Tough 12:00 Laughing Horse @ Raging Bull

Have you ever felt you’re not tough enough? Well two problematic fools are here to teach you how to grab life by the knackers. Imogen Edmundson and Fi Simpson (aka Sons & Co.) are preparing for a national tour of their self-defence and assertiveness workshop.

Traumgirl 20:10 Summerhall (odd dates)

Kim is an actress. She is also a sex worker, a bartender, German, Polish and more. Which identity is most important? Kim takes an auto-fictional approach to explore what a woman is allowed to reveal about herself. Where do your boundaries lie? Created in response to Traumboy, a performance by a male sex worker.

Witch Hunt 17:30 Pleasance Dome

A&E Comedy return following last year’s Enter The Dragons which was one of our EdFringe Faves last year. These coven-ready weird sisters will be brewing a cautionary tale for our time as they ask who really holds the power in a world where the witches are hunting and predators have become the prey.

Neither Here Nor There 19:15 Summerhall

Sonia and Jo are two middle-aged, award-winning, international provincial artists. They have questions about how it’s all going, big questions about the world and small questions about the state of your garden. They’re hosting a series of 6 minute conversations, and would like you to join them.

Prefer Not To Say 13:20 Paradise In The Vault

In a series of verbatim monologues, Prefer Not To Say recalls testimonies of real-life people within the LGBTQ+ community. Through first-hand accounts you are taken on a journey of liberation, strength and empowerment.

Bystanders 11:30 Summerhall

A Windrush generation boxer, a Polish migrant marked with a tattoo and a man with a bottle of gin and a television in his shopping trolley. Last seen at the Fringe with Cathy in 2017, Cardboard Citizens return with an eye-opening collection of homeless histories. Are we mere bystanders?

In PurSUEt 12:10 The Space @ Niddry Street

Inspired by true events: a passionate Sue Perkins Superfan, sent to a therapist to deal with her drinking, relays her adventures pursuing Sue. Follow our heroines impressive swagger skills, drinking habits and coping mechanisms in a fierce, heartfelt new LGBT comedy/drama.

The Hiccup Project: Lovely Girls 20:50 Zoo Southside

The Hiccup Project are often introduced as ‘the lovely hiccup girls’. At first, they didn’t react, because women are supposed to be lovely. But then they started to wonder what else they could be… Using their blend of dance, theatre and comedy, they delve into the contradictions and clichés of being a woman today.

Anguis 14:00 Gilded Balloon Teviot

Cleopatra’s death by asp is a common myth, largely scientifically disproven. Set in a broadcast recording center, Anguis is an imagined conversation between the great pharaoh Cleopatra and a contemporary immunologist. Anguis is the debut play from Olivier Award winner Sheila Atim.

The Patient Gloria (times vary) Traverse Theatre 

Inspired by the 1965 films Three Approaches To Psychotherapy (the Gloria Films), this provocative and upfront meditation on therapy and female desire in a new political context where misogyny is the winning ticket, is a mash-up of re-enactment, real footage, lived experience and a punk gig.

Sarah Keyworth: Pacific 17:45 Pleasance Courtyard

Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee for Best Newcomer and winner of the Herald Angel Award returns with a brand-new hour of comedy about the little things, the smallest details, the fixed and distinct aspects that make up what we definitively are, how we expressly think and who we unambiguously love.

Honeybee 19:15 Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

HoneyBee is a new play written by the award-winning poet Eleanor Dillon-Reams, combining spoken word, dance, stand-up and a thumping festival-driven soundtrack. Kate journeys to rediscover her identity and self-worth while flipping the bird to the patriarchy and dancing in the face of adversity.

Alaska 14:00 Summerhall

Alaska is a funny, magical trip to the moon, with singing and dancing thrown in: one woman’s extraordinary story of how she survived growing up with severe depression. 

Hearty 21:10 Summerhall

Bearing wings made of sharp knives and shooting fireballs into the air, Hearty tackles the current fascination with trans lives and interrogates the controversial bio-technology of HRT. It’s messy, it’s on fire and it’s politically charged. By double Fringe First award-winner Emma Frankland.

The Rebirth of Meadow Rain 13:00 Pleasance Courtyard

Meadow Rain would like to say sorry. Sorry for disappearing. Sorry for being a bad friend. And sorry for calling her best friend a rude word. Meadow is also sorry for keeping secrets… A funny, touching and visceral piece which seeks to change perceptions of emotional abuse and what a victim can look like. 

Bossy Bottom 19:30 Monkey Barrel

Zoë has been on hiatus. Sort of. For the past six years, she’s been a terrible male comedian with a neckbeard called Dave, winning stacks of awards and tons of great reviews. Whatever. Now, she’s scraped off the neckbeard and is back… as herself.

I’ll Take You To Mrs Cole 13:45 Pleasance Courtyard

It’s 1981 and ska music pulses. Young Ashley creates havoc by getting lost in a wild, imaginative world while Mum longs to return home to Barbados. When Jedi battles and forest adventures go too far, will Mum resort to the scariest threat of all? Accompanied by an original soundtrack and stunning video animation. 

Courtney Pauroso: Gutterplum 21:40 Underbelly Cowgate

American comedian Courtney Pauroso makes her Edinburgh Fringe debut with a character clown show (definitely), burlesque show (eventually) and feminist allegory (sure, probably) all rolled into one.

Too Pretty To Punch 13:25 Zoo Southside

A comedy spoken word show about gender, the media and not fitting any of the boxes, full of explosive movement, original songs and kickass video projection. Edalia Day is a banjo-wielding, poetry-slam-winning, trans warrior, taking on the world one troll at a time. All shows include captioning.

Yuriko Kotani: Somosomo 19:00 Pleasance Courtyard

They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but Yuriko has spent her life making sure she doesn’t stick out. Born and raised in Japan, watch Yuriko walk the tightrope of cultural differences as she embraces her individuality with this hotly anticipated debut hour.

Ask A Stripper 19:50 Bob’s Blundabus

Pulling back the G-string and dishing the dirt stripper-style, join Morag and Stacey for an X-rated exposé of their industry. With 30 years of combined stripping experience, a PhD, a TED Talk, a book, three properties and several ex-fiancés later, the creative team behind Illicit Thrill bare their souls, not just their bodies. 

Misspelled Youth 23:00 Bar Bados

An action-packed hour combining elements of storytelling, clown and cabaret, themed around coming-of-age sexual awakenings and queer adolescence. Lauren and Giulia will take you on the ride of your life. 

Everything I See I Swallow 18:00 Summerhall

Everything I See I Swallow is a provocative examination of a mother/daughter relationship, set against a backdrop of shifting attitudes to empowerment, feminism and sexuality. Fusing theatre and aerial rope work with the erotic art of Japanese rope bondage, shibari, Swallow is an unusual and compelling encounter.

Madame Ovary 12:10 Pleasance Dome

Rosa is writing resolutions. She is going to stop going out with plonkers, start doing yoga and write some really good art. But before she’s had time to delete her dating apps and get into downward dog, she’s diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Suddenly faced with her own mortality, Rosa’s new goal for the year ahead is to survive it.

Lucy Hopkins: Ceremony of Golden Truth 21:00 Heroes @ The Spiegelyurt

A collective act of golden manifestation. A sacred laughter bath of an interactive symphonic ceremony, orchestrated by Lucy Hopkins: a preposterously dazzling goddess internationally-touring, award-winning clown, priestess, director and lover of humans.

Watching Glory Die 13:50 Assembly Rooms

Watching Glory Die is inspired by the shocking and true story of Canadian teenager Ashley Smith, who died by suicide in her prison cell while guards watched. This production by Windsor Feminist Theatre is directed by the play’s Susan Smith Blackburn Award-winning playwright Judith Thompson.

R’n’J: The Untold Story of Shakespeare’s Roz n Jules 12:45 Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose

Juliet is double pregnant, Rosaline decides she does indeed want Romeo dick, but Romeo is definitely dead. Join Roz and Jules on an epic Thelma and Louise-style multimedia tragicomedy adventure in clearing their good names, healing age-old family strife and safely delivering those babies!

The Afflicted 19:30 Summerhall

Inspired by real events, this new dance-theatre piece tells the story of a mysterious illness that infects a group of young women in small-town America. As the girls and their families search for a diagnosis to their strange affliction, they come face to face with their personal and collective demons.

Njambi McGrath: Accidental Coconut 16:05 Just The Tonic at Marlin’s Wynd

Brexit seems inescapable as the British stand at the crossroads of self-identity and nostalgia of a bygone era of an empire. In the era when the British people are re-examining who they are as a people, and in relation to the rest of the world, Njambi scrutinises her own story; from the other side of the empire.

The Last Of The Pelican Daughters 16:40 Pleasance Courtyard

Joy wants a baby, Storm wants to be seen, Sage wants to be paid, Maia doesn’t want anyone to find out her secret and Granny’s in a wheelchair on day release. The Wardrobe Ensemble grapple with inheritance, loss and justice in this comedy about four sisters trying to come to terms with their mother’s death. 

Lucy McCormick: Post Popular 20:00 Pleasance Courtyard

Lucy McCormick is back to crawl through the annals of history in this enthusiastically humiliating exploration of power and purpose. Joined by friends with benefits, Samir Kennedy and Rhys Hollis, Lucy is back with her trademark concoction of dance, song, absurdist art and minor breakdowns.

Shit Theatre Drink Rum With Ex-Pats 20:05 Summerhall

Celebrating their final year as Europeans, island monkeys Becca and Louise got invited to the 2018 European Capital of Culture in Malta. Lads on tour and ‘the rising stars of performance art’ (Telegraph) Sh!t Theatre went to drink rum with Brits abroad but found mystery and murder in the fight to be European. 

Daddy Drag 17:45 Summerhall

Good dads, daft dads, dads who wear slogan t-shirts, dads that put on barbecues, dads that tell dad jokes, dads that are bad at dancing. Leyla Josephine attempts to understand what it means to be a father through her witty performance style, drag costumes and complex but unconditional love for her dad.

Cauliflower 15:30 Bar Bados

‘There’s nothing like the taste of my Mum’s cauliflower cheese, the feeling of it sliding down my throat and into my belly.’ Ellie is twenty-three and feeding herself is a minefield. This comedic solo show blends storytelling, spoken word and music exploring food, growing up and our relationships with our mums.

I’m Just Kidneying 14:00 Sweet Novotel

Amanda donated her kidney for her sister. But she wasn’t a match. Yet, she saved two lives. What?! Sounds like an incredibly heroic sacrifice, but Amanda loves attention, so it worked out for everyone. From carrying her urine on the NYC subway to passing resounding farts, this comedy questions what it takes to be a “hero.”

The Patient Gloria (times vary) Traverse Theatre

Inspired by the 1965 films Three Approaches To Psychotherapy (the Gloria Films), this provocative and upfront meditation on therapy and female desire in a new political context where misogyny is the winning ticket, is a mash-up of re-enactment, real footage, lived experience and a punk gig.

Female Role Model Project 12:00 Bedlam Theatre

The Female Role Model Project is an interactive theatrical experience paired with neuroscience celebrating female pioneers. It combines performance and interactive games with live recordings of neural activity from actors and audiences using EEG headsets.

Kanata Cabaret Hour 19:00 CanadaHub

Kanata: the Haudenosaunee word for Canada. Kanata Cabaret Hour: a radical offering of dance, music and live art from uniquely Indigenous and Scottish perspectives. This isn’t your coloniser’s cabaret, it’s self-determined Indigenous badassery! Presented by Indigenous Contemporary Scene.

Oh Yes Oh No 19:20 Summerhall 

This is about having sexual fantasies that don’t align with your politics. About understanding what you want and wondering how to ask for it. Award-winning performance artist Louise Orwin asks the difficult questions, taking you on a surreal joyride through female sexuality and violence. 

Your Sexts Are Shit: Older Better Letters 11:30 Summerhall

Rachel Mars is unearthing the hot-as-hell letters from history that make sexts blush. Before tech, there were hand-written letters. And loads of them were proper filthy. Come! Take pleasure in James Joyce’s passion for arse, find out who sneaked her gay lover into the White House and bear witness to the best/worst sexts ever sent.

Jamie Loftus: Boss Whom Is Girl 22:45 Pleasance Courtyard

Learn how to empower yourself by participating in capitalism in this fabulous keynote speech from Silicon Valley girlboss and founder of Pee-Pee Smarthomes, Shell Gasoline-Sandwich, as played by LA comedian Jamie Loftus.


Shows to see at #EdFringe2019

Here they are, with ONE MONTH TO GO – our pre-Edinburgh Fringe picks for 2019.

Listed below are our choices of shows on our radar, to help you plan your Fringe trip, entirely free of posh white guys with microphones (we’ve heard quite enough from those dudes, thanksvmuch).

These are the shows that are the very TOP of our to-see list, by the artists we trust to make exciting work. They make up a tiny selection of the shows we’re excited to see in a festival with literally thousands of options. If you want to browse a bigger list, we are sharing our shows-to-see spreadsheet for the first time this year, and we’ll be doing our best over the summer to keep it updated for your convenience. Follow us on twitter, instagram, and fb, and subscribe to our podcast for updates of more favourites & hot tips as and when seen them.

If you’re an artist going to Edinburgh with a show that you think we should be talking about, please contact us by email: hello@bechdeltheatre.com. And make sure you say hi if you see us walking around Edinburgh!

If you enjoy our Fringe coverage, please support our work by becoming a Patreon, buying us a ko-fi, or donating to our GoFundMe. Bechdel Theatre has no outside funding and exists independent of any bigger organisations, and would not exist without the financial support of individuals who value the work we put into championing the theatre that we want to see more of.

All the ways to support our work, whether you have money or none, are on our SUPPORT US page.

Happy Bechdel testing ❤

Beth & Pippa

PS. If you’re NOT going to Edinburgh Fringe this year, or don’t have time while you’re there to cram all these amazing shows in – we got you covered! Many of these productions are previewing so we’re flagging those up below, and as always we’ll be updating you on our podcast and social media whenever they announce a new transfer or tour. You will not miss out!

Bible John Pleasance Courtyard 15:50

Bible John was an Old Testament-quoting serial killer who murdered women in 1969, and has never been caught. In 2019, four women bound by their obsession with true crime try to solve the case, once and for all in an exploration of violence, gender and one of Scotland’s darkest mysteries. A show for anyone who has ever pondered why so many consumers of the “true-crime” podcast genre are often those most likely to be victims of violent crimes.

Not going to Edinburgh? Bible John previews in London at Omnibus in Clapham on July 22 & 23.

Bible John

FOC It Up Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose 23:15

Hosted by inimitable comedy talent Kemah Bob, FOC It Up is the night that recognises and represents the fierce, fabulous and funny perspectives of women, trans and non-binary comedians of colour. FOC stand for ‘Femmes Of Colour’, but it also stands for ‘Future Of Comedy’: They disrupt the status quo, fight tokenism and spill diversi-tea with a 100% no-white-dudes-onstage guarantee – and there’s nowhere that needs that guarantee more than Edinburgh Fringe.

Not in Edinburgh? Follow FOC It Up on fb for upcoming London shows

Burgerz

Burgerz Traverse Theatre (times vary)

After someone threw a burger at them and shouted a transphobic slur, performance artist Travis Alabanza became obsessed with burgers. This show is the climax of their obsession: exploring how trans bodies survive and how, by them reclaiming an act of violence, we can address our own complicity. We’ve fallen in love with Travis’ work, from their phenomenal performance in 2018’s ‘Jubilee’ to their beautifully vulnerable dialogue on intimacy & loneliness ‘I Tried To F*ck Up the System But None Of My Friends Texted Back’, so we’re counting down the days til we get to see this hotly-tipped solo performance.

Not going to Edinburgh? Burgerz post-Fringe European tour dates

Splintered Bedlam Theatre 21:30

A brand new cabaret-theatre show from Lagahoo (lead by Emily Aboud, one of the most exciting young theatre directors around and the cabaret artist behind drag king ‘TriniDad & TooGayThough’). Splintered is based on interviews with women in Trinidad and Tobago and devised with a team of actors. Expect lip-sync, drag, carnival, and a show unlike anything to ever grace Edinburgh Fringe. ‘This is a show about Caribbean people being queer. In our experience, it is damned hard’.

Not going to Edinburgh? Splintered is previewing at The Bunker on July 28.

Butch Princesa SpiegelYurt 18:20

Character comedy, dance and Latin beats guide you deep into a surreal queer immigrant wonderland. Sharp-suited feminist dream-clown Andrea Spisto promises you “an unflinchingly emotional art explosion”, and if her previous Fringe show was anything to go by (‘Miss Venezuela ‘- one of our favourite brand new Edinburgh discoveries of 2018) this show will be the sexiest intersectional comedy art show you could ever imagine.

Not going to Edinburgh? Butch Princesa is at the Arcola on July 19

Butch Princesa
Photo: Jahel Guerra

Cactus Bar Bados 20:15

Award-winning spoken-word artist Jemima Foxtrot’s solo show features new poems and songs exploring what it means to put your life into your art. Jemima’s voice is a ray of sunshine that we bet will cut through the grey Edinburgh rain as she reminds us how to find excitement in the tiniest of every day things.

Electrolyte Pleasance Courtyard 17:20

Last year we featured Electrolyte on our Fringe Faves list, calling it the ULTIMATE gig theatre. It went on to win an astonishing list of awards, including: The Mental Health Fringe Award, The Stepladder Award, The LET Award, The Voice Mag Pick of The Fringe Award and the Pleasance Best Newcomer Award. We told you so. Luckily for anyone who missed it in 2018, Wildcard are bringing it back this year for a month-long run at the Pleasance Courtyard.

How To Catch A D*ck Pleasance Courtyard 20:15

Stand-up comic and TV star London Hughes’ Pleasance show explores, in her words: “how as a woman, you can be incredibly awesome and successful yet incredibly single, and how f*ckin’ ridiculous it is!” London is not exaggerating in the slightest when she says she’s incredibly awesome – she’s one of the most infectiously energetic stage performers we’ve ever seen in any context, and we are hyped to see her live again after she’s spent a couple of years building herself the kind of big-time household-name fame she deserves.

London Hughes

Collapsible Assembly Roxy 13:20

Essie’s lost her job. Her girlfriend’s left. But she’s alright. Except lately she feels more like a chair than a person. Collapsible is a new monologue about holding on in this collapsing world. Writer Margaret Perry is one to watch – she had her previous play produced at Ireland’s National Theatre: The Abbey in Dublin, has been commissioned by several London venues, and won an Origins award from VAULT Festival for Collapsible.

Not going to Edinburgh? Collapsible is coming to The Bush in February.

FATTY FAT FAT Pleasance Courtyard 15:15

We caught Katie Greenall’s FATTY FAT FAT in it’s first round of previews this year, and even in its early stages it was full of well-aimed laughs and powerful honesty. We’re not just saying this because we got offered crisps halfway through, but this show is a joyous hour as well as an important and challenging testimony of living in a body the world tells you to hate. Leave your diet books at the door.

Who Cares Summerhall 18:20

LUNG theatre company are well-reknowned for plays addressing social and political issues “with communities, by communities, and for communities”, and their latest Fringe offering stays true to that commitment. ‘Who Cares’ has been adapted from real-life testimonies to examine our failing care system, the impact of austerity and what happens when a child becomes the parent.

Who Cares

Backward Pleasance Courtyard 19:00

Rosie “triple threat” Jones is bringing her second hour of comedy to the Fringe to explore the difficulties of navigating the world whilst being the only disabled, gay, northern comedian with a penchant for sexual aggression. Rosie’s hilarious 2018 show ‘Fifteen Minutes’ was a massive hit, and she’s spent the last year growing her indomitable reputation even further – Fringe 2019 is hers for the taking.

Tricky Second Album Pleasance Dome 23:00

In Bed With My Brother (aka Nora, Dora, and Kat), promise that their new production is nothing like their previous show ‘We Are Ian’ (the incredible immersive theatrical-rave-experience inspired by their pal Ian’s account of living in 1980s Manchester). Even if ‘Tricky Second Album’ takes them in an entirely different direction from ‘Ian’, we trust them with an hour of our lives based on the fun we had in their company back in 2016. Also, they have the best website of any Fringe artist we’ve seen while researching this blog.

I, AmDram Pleasance Courtyard 14:00

Writer/performer Hannah Maxwell step-ball-changes between suburb and city, revealing her familial legacy: this queer London live-artist-type hails from four generations of leading ladies of the Welwyn Thalians Musical & Dramatic Society. Hannah’s debut solo show is not quite Gilbert and Sullivan, but the “Learned Urban Lesbian” does her family proud, regaling us with hilarious tales from her performance history with a warmth and affection which – while not uncritical of her hometown, left us with a spring in our steps when we caught an early draft of it last year.

Nightclubbing/OUT Summerhall 15:45

For the first half of the month (until the 11th) Rachael Young and her badass band of superhumans embrace Afrofuturism and the cult of Grace Jones in Nightclubbing. For the second half of the month (from the 13th) she will be joined by non-binary dancer/choreographer marikiscrycrycry to perform OUT: a duet defiantly challenging homophobia and transphobia, reclaiming Dancehall and celebrating Vogue culture.

Nightclubbing

Fix Us Underbelly Cowgate 12:20

BareFace Collective are Lee Philips, Zara Jayne and Kirsty Adams. Lee has autism, Zara has CHARGE syndrome and Kirsty has Cerebral Palsy. Three wild, wicked and wonderful individuals whose real-life inner anxieties clash with their flamboyant alter-egos. BareFace are not only putting disabled voices centre stage with their show – they’re also using social media to share access information for audience members across the festival. We highly recommend giving them a follow on twitter as well as going to see their show.

Not going to Edinburgh? Fix Us previews at the Kings Head in Islington on July 19th & 20th.

Algorithms Pleasance Courtyard 12:45

Algorithm’s protagonist Brooke is a rare millennial who seems to have it all: the job, the flat, the girlfriend… until things go tits up, just before her 30th birthday. This tragicomic play gives a unique insight into the world of online dating – through the eyes of a bisexual woman whose job is to write the algorithms for a dating website. Sadie Clark’s lovably hapless heroine will likely be sometimes-achingly-often-comically relatable for anyone in our online generation who has struggled with loneliness in a world where we’re meant to be more connected than ever.

Not going to Edinburgh? Algorithms has previews in North London, South London, and Norwich.

The LOL Word Gilded Balloon at Old Tolbooth Market 19:15

This mixed-bill of .LGBTQ+ women and non-binary comedians has introduced us to new favourite comics with a regularity that’s hard to keep up with. It’s a winning formula in which comics can comfortably perform their most marvellously queer material to a wildly friendly crowd, with only one rule: There’s no kicking down (no sexism, transphobia, racism, etc.) but plenty of punching the patriarchy. Their “prom” themed night at VAULT Festival earlier this year proved that The LOL Word isn’t just a reliable compilation staple with guaranteed laughs, it’s a whole night out with a loyal following who return enthusiastically for more than one hour.

Not in Edinburgh? Follow The LOL Word on twitter for announcements of shows throughout the year.

My Father the Tantric Masseur Assembly George Square Studios 22:10

Roann McCloskey is a post #MeToo, queer, British-Algerian woman on a journey of excruciating self-discovery between reserved English father turned Tantric Masseur and Muslim mother who insists on open dialogue. She promises to have us “laughing, crying and pondering the name you’ve given your genitals” – and that, despite the eye-catching name, it’s very much NOT all about a man. We have to say, despite the rules of the test we’re named after, we ARE very curious to hear about her Dad…

My Father The Tantric Masseur

Parakeet Roundabout @ Summerhall 17:05

This new musical from Brigitte Aphrodite (the poet, songwriter, feminist showgirl, and all-round good-soul behind 2015s My Beautiful Black Dog) is about finding your flock and ruffling feathers. In Margate, an isolated teenager forms a band and finds her voice with the help of a gang of parakeets. This show promises to introduce audiences to the new spirit of punk: punk with empathy, which sounds like the movement the world needs right now.

I’m A Phoenix, Bitch Pleasance Courtyard 17:30

Bryony Kimmings, arguably the Queen of the Fringe is returning after an eventful couple of years away during which she had a baby, a break-up and two major shows, the most recent of which is the one she’s bringing before 2019’s Edinburgh audiences. ‘I’m A Phoenix, Bitch’, is a phenomenal emotional rollercoaster of a multi-media show which charts her regaining of strength following a mental health breakdown. It almost broke us when we saw it open in Battersea last year – bring a pal who you can squeeze hands with during the tough moments, and hug after.

Pink Lemonade Assembly Roxy 15:45

Pink Lemonade is performer and theatre-maker Mika Johnson’s debut solo show. Presented by The Queer House and HighTide, Pink Lemonade is a piece of experimental theatre which explores femxle masculinity, racial fetishism, sexuality and gender identity with poetry, movement and original beats.

Not in Edinburgh? Pink Lemonade previews at The Gate Theatre on July 17 & 18

Since U Been Gone Assembly Roxy 15:45

Last year ‘Polaris’ by Holly and Ted made it into our Fringe recommendations & did a brilliant job of showcasing the creative talents, versatility and likeability of Teddy Lamb. Teddy, who also did a great service to the Fringe community by founding @EdFringeQueer Meet Up, is back this year with their autobiographical show ‘Since U Been Gone’ a mid-noughties story of friendship, grief and growing up queer, with a (presumably Kelly Clarkson-inspired) original pop music score

Not in Edinburgh? Since U Been Gone previews at The Gate Theatre on July 24 & 25

The Ballad of Mulan Assembly Rooms 16:05

A woman, a warrior, a Chinese legend – Michelle Yim brings to life the real Mulan who, to save her family’s honour, disguised herself as a man and joined the emperors army. A must-see for anyone who felt inspired by the Disney movie as a kid, then grew up wondering about the real woman behind the heroine.

Not going to Edinburgh? The Ballad of Mulan is previewing in Buxton on July 21

The Ballad of Mulan

Sophie Duker: Venus Pleasance Courtyard 19:00

Sophie Duker is your Venus, she’s your fire, your desire. Or is she? She’s definitely a firm favourite of ours, we’ve loved seeing her rise to prominence on the comedy scene, from splitting bills with fellow feminist faves and hosting her own always-LOL-filled Wacky Racists nights, to taking mainstream telly and radio by storm. We cannot WAIT to see her “full-fat woke” debut hour, VENUS: Silly, sexy, savage stand-up from a girl who’s definitely not a goddess.

Tokyo Rose Underbelly Cowgate 18:55

The team behind award-winning all-female musical ‘The Half Moon Shania’ are turning back the dial to 1949, with a new rap-packed musical in which five wartime disc jockeys spit piercing verse. Faced with accusations of peddling Axis propaganda, Iva d’Aquino becomes known as the notorious Tokyo Rose – but was she the villain she was made out to be?

Sexy Lamp Pleasance Courtyard 14:00

How could we resist including the show with the title that nods to a “version” of the Bechdel test that calls out the use of women as props, asking: “Could the female characters in this movie be replaced by a sexy lamp?”. Combining comedy, original songs and storytelling, Sexy Lamp sheds a bright light on how ridiculous the entertainment industry can be and why Katie is refusing to stay in the dark any longer.

The Burning Pleasance Courtyard 15:15

Good witch. Wicked witch. White queen. Red queen. Maternal. Frigid. Madonna. Whore. The endless female trade-off between goodness and power. The Burning follows the lives of the women and their witch hunters in an epic story through time, history, capitalism, and the consequences of societal fear when faced with change. It sounds to us like the show to go to for your Fringe dose of Feminist-Battlecry-Theatre.

The Burning

BBC Radio Drama Summerhall Radio 18:00

The BBC are recording a selection of plays with a live studio audience (to be broadcast in September – so listen out for them then if you’re not going to Edinburgh). This is not only a fun opportunity to see radio drama being recorded live, but also the chance to catch some work by some of the most extraordinary playwrights heading to the Fringe.

We particularly recommend:

The Grape That Rolled Under The Fridge: An Afrofuturist tale about identity, familial relationships and the surveillance state by Matilda Ibini (August 13th)

Pass: A Thelma and Louise for our times about a mother and daughter’s relationship through transition by Kate O’Donnell (August 10th)

About Time/Bully Laughing Horse @ City Cafe 19:10

A split bill comedy show featuring two brilliant rising-stars who we’ve seen pop up on all our absolute favourite line-ups recently so can whole-heatedly recommend. You can’t go wrong spending an evening with Thanyia Moore and Sian Davies.

About Time: growing up is hard, but most people manage it. Sian Davies waited until she was 27 to grow up. Everyone agreed, it was about time.

Bully: was Thanyia Moore bullied? Or was she the bully? Join the Funny Women Award winner as she seeks to find the answer in this hilarious account of her childhood.

Working On My Night Moves Summerhall 21:55

The latest live art work by award-winning New Zealanders Julia Croft and Nisha Madhan, ‘Working On My Night Moves’ is “a search for multiple feminist futurisms while reaching for outer space” and “ode to the search for utopia”. They’re breaking the rules, the patriarchy and the time/space continuum, and we are absolutely here for all of that.

Working On My Night Moves

Gentlemen, Please Laughing Horse @ Sofi’s Southside 13:15

Alissa Anne Jeun Yi (who was a guest on our podcast during last year’s Fringe)and Lily Hyde met at Soho Theatre, where they bonded “over their love of expensive candles and the fact that they were both complex, three-dimensional women”, so naturally they’re sharing a comedy bill at this year’s Fringe, and naturally we are keen to see it.

On DNA and i will still be whole (when you rip me in half).

A piece of embedded criticism.

Just before I sit to write this I see that at 8:04am this morning I received an email from My Heritage DNA – Congratulations Pippa your DNA results are now ready. I pause. Fuck. Instead of opening the email, I open this word document.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what this role of embedded critic means and how I feel incredibly biased because I’ve been excited about i will still be whole (when you rip me in half) since I saw it was announced on twitter. And I know why I felt so invested so early on: Representation.

It’s a word that I find myself repeating so much (at Bechdel Theatre it’s one of the words we use to describe the aims of our podcast, we chat about gender and representation). However, it’s a word that has become so ingrained in my vernacular, repeated so many times that much like “diversity”, I worry that I find it becoming more hollow, losing grip of what it so importantly signifies. It becomes another buzzword, a tick-box, meaningless. How convenient for the white-cis-hetero-capitalist structures that benefit from it’s minimisation. I remind myself of Riz Ahmed’s speech at the House of Commons where he explains that diversity is regarded like a sprinkle of salt but representation should never be considered an added extra. When I discuss the specific representation of Asian people, I often excitedly adopt the portmanteau,  ‘representasian’ and hashtag the fuck out of it. Trying to find community. Trying to make us visible. I know how important meaningful representasian is to the writer of this show, Ava Wong Davies. I passionately apply for this role.

I’ve been excited by I will still be whole… because I feel like it’s the first time I can see characters so deeply similar to myself in ways that feel so important and ground-breaking even within in my own representation bubble. East Asian and White. Mixed. Queer. I find this funny because I haven’t even described personality traits or characteristics. It’s identity. It’s culture. Do I have nothing but these macro ideologies to describe myself? I always desire to see issues around sexuality, race etc. to be secondary to a characters’ lives on stage (to move past being labelled a GAY PLAY, A CHINESE PLAY etc.). Although there’s probably some form of wording on my Bumble profile that basically says I AM A PROUD MIXED-RACE LESBIAN (#femmestruggles amiright?). I think I might even use my other favourite portmanteau, “gaysian”.

As a millennial whose life and work is embedded in identity politics and the importance of seeing yourself reflected I worry I forget about actually having any substance. Forget my cultural “identity”. Who am I really? Am I an extrovert or introvert? Kind or selfish? A listener or a talker? A creative or a critic? I know that my personality is deeply fused with my identity, intertwined with one another. The way I navigate life is dictated by hierarchical structures and invisible oppressions (as well as a whoole load of privileges). This influences my interests, my passions…or am I just scared there’s nothing else really there?

The first day in rehearsal I find myself on the edge both physically and mentally; sitting at the side and anxious. I feel like an imposter, infiltrating a space already carved out with group guidelines, collective snacks and a journey already started days before my arrival. I’m an intruder. But like, a welcome one. I feel like I want a visitor’s badge I can return at the end of the day. Yet, I’m invited into the routine “check-in” with everyone else. I’m present. I’m ready. I sit. I watch.

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Photo Courtesy of Lilith Wozniak

The play begins with a series of monologues between two women: a mother and daughter. Separated. Different. Curious. Ava’s writing is rich and poetic, at once urgent and demanding yet soft and lingering. When I watch EJ (Rosa Escoda) and Joy (Kailing Fu) deliver these words I have to wait a second to let their meaning settle.

As I watch the actors at work under Helen Morley’s patient and guided direction, I’m grateful for their pauses, for these silences are filled to the brim with intrigue, longing and heartache. EJ searches for meaning in everything and everyone around her: from a midnight fox to the black mould in her bathroom. Joy isolates herself and struggles with her inner conflict. I take in the magic of Ava’s words and the spaces between them. I feel healed.

My favourite exercise in the rehearsal room was to note down every time a body part or body function was mentioned. In one scene I list 21 parts and 15 functions. In the rehearsal everyone agrees that the play is undeniably about bodies, searching for bodies, covering bodies, nourishing bodies. I think about my own body and the war-torn path we share together. The clashes we’ve had, the disappointments, the attempts at forgiveness. EJ experiences something similar as she traces her face, recognising her White fathers’ features and torments herself trying to find her Chinese-Malaysian mothers’. To see the battleground of a young East-Asian/White woman’s body represented feels almost overwhelming. This is the nuance, the detail, and the truth I celebrate when women of colour write from experience.

When it comes to watching the play I am again aware of bodies, but this time of being situated within the audience. I realise that the only people I can see scribbling in notebooks are myself and the beloved critic, Lyn Gardner, beside me. I had introduced myself to her and chatted before the show started because #teamlyn, but then I think about how inferior I feel calling myself a “critic” of any kind. I feel a panic rising at the thought of writing and publishing this response. I notice a young woman with her chin in her hand as she leans forward with a smile plastered to her face throughout. I smile to myself.

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It’s fascinating to watch the show and see familiar scenes and choices and actions yet to see it all heightened to the nth degree. The mystic lighting (Ben Kulvichit) and sound (Amanda Fleming)  emphasises the beauty and the density of the dialogue. The actors are fuelled with spirit and focus. I feel surprisingly relaxed.

The reunion scene comes all too soon and I realise that almost the whole play is over. It’s been an intense 45 minutes. In rehearsals I wanted this scene (where they meet for the first time) to be volcanic, to erupt with the fury and anger from the pain and the soreness that overwhelmed both EJ and Joy. I gripped my pen each time I watched it. However, that’s not the world this play sits within and it took me until the final performance to realise that. Sure, there are outbursts as EJ calls Joy a “cunt”, but everything simmers beneath, and the reality is actually much more bizarre and hilarious as both party realises they will never fulfil the expectation of the other. It reminds me of The Meg-John and Justin Podcast in which two relationship and sex educators talk about the “scripts” we’re given on relationships, and our panic when confronted with a situation we don’t know the script for. When someone says I love you, you say it back. When a mother gives birth to a daughter, she must raise her. I see EJ and Joy struggling to know what script they are supposed to use. Writing it as they go. Desperate to start again. The archness of Kai’s responses and the disappointment in Rosa’s expression communicates this perfectly.

I think back to my DNA results. My nervousness over opening them, not because of what it could say, but because of how I might react. How my mind might forge links between some highly problematic ethnic excavating exercise and my own sense of self. I consider EJ in i will still be whole, what did she hope to find when she made contact with the woman who gave birth to her? Really, my situation and hers are highly incomparable.

The play doesn’t end wrapped up neatly and as an audience member I am unsatisfied yet comforted. I think about how much it meant to EJ to find out if her mother accepted her sexuality. How, as a queer audience member, those last lines lingered for me. I hope perhaps, for EJ, it was on some level the sense of closure she craved.

I wasn’t sure what exactly an embedded critic was supposed to be when I started this process and having finished it i’m still not entirely sure I’ve done it. However, I feel invigorated by the depiction of people like myself in this play. I feel grateful to have had this opportunity to observe and reflect and respond. I am excited for the future because I know more people who are like me are on stage, writing, directing, producing, designing, reviewing. I hope this play continues its life beyond this festival. I hope we continue to embrace representasian. I hope one day we don’t need that fucking word.

I open the email.

———————–

If you want to catch myself, Beth, Lyn and Ava discussing criticism, gender and representation, we’re hosting a LIVE podcast event at Vault on Sunday 10th March. Come join us and book your tickets here. 

Bechdel-friendly theatre to see in 2019

Happy New Year, Bechdel testers!

 

2018 was a fairly decent one when it came to stage-watching.  We rode through the year powered by the energy of what seemed like a wave of FEMINIST BATTLECRY THEATRE, featuring killer ensemble casts filling stages across the country.  Shout out to I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream, Collective Rage, Jubilee, Hot Brown Honey & Hive City Legacy, The Sweet Science of Bruising, Dance Nation, Six, Hole, Emilia, and Queens of ShebaWe also saw a TON of gloriously political, personal and stigma-smashing shows at theatres of all genres and sizes – special love to Scene, Everything I Am, Leave Taking, Trojan Horse, Baby Daddy, F**k You Pay Me, Miss Venezuela, Coconut, The Year of The Rooster Monk, Spun, A Small Place and It’s True, It’s True, It’s True.

 

We hosted post-shows at The Park, Ovalhouse, and VAULT, held workshops at The Mono Box and The Pleasance, and appeared on panels at Theatre 503 and Oxford Playhouse. We celebrated International Women’s Day with Racheal Ofori, Fuel Theatre, and a team of incredible artists in a night full of Equalitini cocktails raising money for Refugee Women. We hosted our very own drag night at Styx bar which raised enough to fund our trip to Edinburgh Fringe. And we fulfilled a dream of ours at the UK premiere of Fun Home when we chatted to our hero and inspiration, the ACTUAL Alison Bechdel and got her nod of approval for using her surname on literally everything we do… PHEW.

 

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Dreams came true in 2018 when we hung out with Alison Bechdel

 

While this year has raised our expectations, it was by no means perfect. We continued to hear about numerous seasons, festivals, and shows jumping on the #feminist bandwagon without noticing that their “all female” or “gender balanced” line-up looked like a showcase of white, straight, posh, cis, able-bodied, thin, youthful privilege. Needless to say we haven’t been wasting time shining a light on those poor efforts, and our hope for 2019 is to see a more intersectional approach to representation on stage, everywhere from the fringe and subsidised theatre to commercial tours and West End shows.

 

With that in mind, here’s where we’re placing our high hopes at the beginning of 2019. Get your calendar out, these are the shows we think you should be booking for this week/month/year…

 

(If you find this list useful, you might want to subscribe to our podcast, follow us on instagram and twitter. If you discover some shows you love through our platforms, please consider supporting us through Patreon).

 

Shows to see in 2019

 

The Convert continues at the Young Vic. 2018’s biggest-banking film actor Letitia Wright takes to the stage in her fellow Black Panther star Danai Gurira’s play about faith and identity.

 

Pulitzer Prize-winning Sweat by Lynn Nottage is on at the Donmar Warehouse, directed by Lynette Linton, and has just been extended until Feb 2. They also have FREE tickets for young people, so if you’re 25 or under snap those up asap.

 

Six is the musical about a group of Queens united in their mistreatment by one man (we don’t wanna say his name – it begins with H and ends with VIII). It was one of the biggest word-of-mouth hits of 2018, and returns to The Arts Theatre on Jan 17 for an epic diva-worthy run with tickets on sale until 2020.

 

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Sweat at The Donmar Warehouse

 

Rhum and Clay’s new adaptation of The War of The Worlds was written with Isley Lynn, so of course (unlike its previous film, radio and stage adaptations) it passes the Bechdel test fantastically. It’s at New Diorama Theatre until Feb 9.

 

Some of the most fun shows we saw at Edinburgh Fringe this year are returning in January. Heather and Harry is at Camden People’s Theatre on January 15 & 16. Six the musical is at The Arts theatre from Jan 17, booking until May.  Bitches In The Ford Ka is at Rosemary Branch Theatre on Jan 24 & 25 and Pegasus Theatre Oxford on Jan 26.

 

This year’s VAULT Festival is running Jan 23 – Mar 17, and has some exciting offerings, which we’ll be covering in more detail on our podcast & social media – but if you’re booking ahead we suggest checking out some of the shows we loved most when we saw them at Edinburgh Fringe: Queens of Sheba (Jan 30 – Feb 3)Ladykiller (Feb 27 – Mar 3)The Half (Feb 6 – 10), Len Blanco: Firing Blancs (Feb 7, 8, 28 & Mar 1), and Finding Fassbender (Mar 15 & 16)

 

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Can I Touch Your Hair? at VAULT

 

Some other shows we highly recommend include: Inside Voices (Jan 23 – 27),  Juniper and Jules (Jan 23 – 27)Dangerous Lenses (Jan 23 – 27)Lola (Jan 23 – 27), 17 (Jan 23 – 27), Salaam (Jan 30 – Feb 3), Fatty Fat Fat (Jan 30 – Feb 3)Hear Me Howl (Jan 30 – Feb 3)Elf Lyons: Love Songs To Guinea Pigs (Feb 14 – 15), i will still be whole (when you rip me in half) (Feb 27 – 28)Can I Touch Your Hair? (Mar 8 – 9), and 10 (Mar 13 – 17).

We’re also looking forward to spending some late nights at VAULT with some of our cabaret faves. It’ll definitely be worth staying up for Pecs: King for a Night (Feb 2), Shotgun Carousel: Eat Your Heart Out (Feb 16), Brazilian Wax XXL (Mar 2) and The Family Jewels (Mar 8).

 

Camden People’s Theatre has partnered with China Arts Now to present previous podcast guest Jennifer Tang’s show based on her personal experience Ghost Girl // Gwei Mui 鬼妹 from Jan 22 – Feb 9. You can see it in a double bill alongside some other brilliant artists for a bargain price, we recommend Alissa Anne Jeun Yi’s Love Songs on Jan 22-26, or Paula Varjack’s The Cult of K*nzo Feb 5 – 9.

 

Also part of Chinese Arts Now, we’re looking forward to seeing London-based Chinese artist and drag king Whiskey Chow’s The Moon Is Warmer Than The Sun at Toynbee Studios on Jan 31 & Feb 1.

 

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Ghost Girl // Gwei Mui at Camden People’s Theatre

 

Flight Paths is a multi-media co-production between Extant and Yellow Earth inspired by the Goze: blind female performers who travelled around medieval Japan making a living from telling epic tales. The show combines movement, music, narrative and creative audio description using new sound technology, and is on tour from Feb 5.

 

Natasha Gordon’s Nine Night, fulfilled our expectations of brilliance in 2018 and has transferred to the West End where it’s playing at Trafalgar Studios in Aldgate until Feb 23.

 

The new stage adaptation of one of our most beloved childhood books, The Worst Witch is getting rave reviews on tour across the UK throughout 2019, with upcoming dates in Sheffield, Derby, Canterbury, Dartford, Southampton and more.

 

Smack That (a conversation)Rhiannon Faith’s extraordinary show by and for women who have experienced domestic abuse, is back in 2019. It’s a party, a dance performance, a supportive safe space, and an engaging piece of truly live art. It’s touring in 2019 to locations including Essex, London, Portsmouth, Oxford, Salford, Newcastle, and Salisbury.

 

Adjoa Andoh and Lynette Linton are directing Richard II at The Globe from Feb 22 – Apr 21. In one of 2019’s first “Seriously, theatre – how has this taken so long?!” moments (we’re sure it won’t be the last) this production features the first all-WOC company in a major UK Shakespeare staging.

 

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Richard II at Shakespeare’s Globe

 

The Globe’s last big feminist moment from last summer came in the form of Emilia. After only a short run in 2018 – followed by impassioned demand for its return, Morgan Lloyd Malcom’s rallying cry of a play is opening at the Vaudeville Theatre on March 8.

 

Tatty Hennessey’s coming of age story with polar bears, A Hundred Words For Snow, is returning after a hugely successful VAULT run last year. You can catch it at Trafalgar Studios Mar 5-30.

 

Our Drag King faves Pecs have a 2 week long run of their new show Sex Sex Men Men at The Yard Theatre in Hackney, so if their King For The Night party at VAULT whets your appetite for more, you’ll have plenty of chances to catch the boys Feb 26 – Mar 9.

 

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Sex Sex Men Men at The Yard

 

Barbarian Collective are a theatre company which puts “the outsider” are the forefront of storytelling – their The Castilla Sisters tells the story of two sisters in contemporary Mexico after one of them goes missing, and is at the Bread and Roses Theatre in Clapham Mar 26 – 30.

 

The Royal Court’s upcoming season includes Superhoe directed by the wondeful Jade Lewis (Jan 30 – Feb 16), Clean Break’s brand new show Inside Bitch (Feb 27 – Mar 23), a highly anticipated London run for Selina Thompson’s inimitable salt. and Lynette Linton’s series of filmed monologues Passages: A Windrush Celebration, focusing on British West Indian experiences, which will be released weekly online and culminate in a screening and day of celebration on April 13.

 

In case you’ve got this far down the list and not noticed yet: 2019 BELONGS to Lynette Linton. As well as having work on at the Globe, the Donmar, and the Royal Court, Lynette has just taken up a new job as The Bush Theatre’s Artistic Director. We’re super-hyped to hear what she programmes in 2019. In the meantime, you can catch these phenomenal shows in their upcoming season: And The Rest of Me Floats (Feb 20 – 16), The Trick Feb 19 – Mar 23), Yvette (May 14 – June 1), and Babylon a 2 week long festival celebrating the contemporary global influences and experiences of Black and Brown people, presented by Tobi Kyeremateng and Ruthie Osterman (Feb 4 – 16).

 

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Lynette Linton’s first season as Artistic Director of The Bush

 

The Bunker is also presenting an entire season of incredible looking work, including some shows we HEAVILY recommend, having seen them in previous incarnations: Boots (Feb 19 – Mar 16), Box Clever (Mar 26 – Apr 13), Funeral Flowers (Apr 15 – May 4), and F**k You Pay Me (May 7 – 19), along with Rachel De-Lahay’s letter writing project: My White Best Friend, in which writers (including 2 of the most exciting creative minds we know, Matilda Ibini and Travis Alabanza) are commissioned to write letters engaging with racial tensions, microaggressions and emotional labour, which will be read aloud for the first time by performers live on stage each night.

 

The second in Koko Brown’s trilogy of colour plays (following last year’s White): Grey, will be performed as part of Camden People Theatre’s spring season on April 11. This show explores depression and black women’s mental health with Koko’s signature loop pedal and fully integrated BSL.

 

Bryony Kimmings’ cathartic and touching return to solo performance: I’m A Phoenix Bitch is returning to its origin at the beautifully restored Battersea Arts Centre Feb 20 – Mar 9 and heading down to Brighton at The Attenborough Centre May 3-7.

 

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I’m a Phoenix, Bitch in London and Brighton

 

Possibly the best ‘straight play’ we saw last year, Ella Road’s The Phlebotomist, is transferring this year from the Hampstead Theatre’s studio space (where it sold out after word-of-mouth spread like wildfire) to their main stage Mar 19 – Apr 20. Jade Anouka returns to play the title role after a triumphant year of rave reviews for her performances in Manchester Royal Exchange’s Queen Margaret, and ITV’s Cleaning Up.

 

Libby Liburd’s new show Fighter is at Stratford Circus Apr 25 – 27. It tells the story of a single mum plunged into the world of boxing, features a cast of young boxers, and will provide a free crèche available for any parents watching the matinee performance.

 

Theatre 503 has two excellent loo king shows coming up in spring 2019: Damsel Productions’ The Amber Trap (Apr 24 – May 18), and J’OuvertA timely reflection on the Black British experience set during Notting Hill Carnival (May 29 – Jun 22).

 

In July we’ll be seeing in the summer with Brainchild Festival in Sussex. Brainchild is the place where we’ve seen our first glimpses of some of the most exciting companies and performers we’ve seen over the past couple of years, so we’re majorly hyped to see what they have in store for 2019 – their first year with full Arts Council support. If you just can’t wait for summer, you can check out the Brainchild team’s regular scratch night: Hatch at Platform in Southwark.

 

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Brainchild Festival in Sussex

 

That’s all for now! If you bump into us at once of these shows come and say hi, and let us know what you think of our recommendation – you’ll know us by the Bechdel Theatre badges, stickers, tote bags and whatever other branded clothing we can afford in 2019.

 

If you like our work and want to support what we do, please subscribe to our podcast, follow us on instagram and twitter, or sign up to send us a little bit of cash every month through Patreon.