Welcome back (after a year!) to the Bechdel Theatre blog, where we’re serving you a bumper collection of recommendations of theatre and performance that goes WELL above and beyond the basic low-bar of the Bechdel test - plus a selection of things to check out if you’re not physically going to theatres at the moment.
First, a tiny update from us. Call it a gentle, the-pandemic-isn’t-over-yet, ultra-soft relaunch.
This time last year, after we got our first ever funding grant (from the Arts Council, for organisational development) we logged off social media* and onto zoom to do all the behind-the-scenes jobs that we’ve previously never had the support to do properly.
We had some mentorship, some training, and some very promising meetings. We did some policy writing, some business planning, lots of research, and generally set ourselves on a path to work more sustainably for years to come. Please cross your fingers for all our plans to come to fruition! We can’t WAIT to finally create some much-needed jobs for freelancers in future.
A huge thanks to everyone who has supported all this work so far - shout out to Beck Tadman, Annmarie Lewis, Daisy Hale, REcreate, and everyone else who’s given us their time, energy, expertise, and moral support through 2021!
On the more visible side of things, regulars may have noticed… we had a makeover 💅 We’re in LOVE with our new logo & visual identity (by Soofiya), and can’t wait to fill our hot new website (by 31% Wool) with more live events and more updates soon.
In the meantime, please do explore the rest of our site, and let us know what you think.
We’re particularly proud of our Resources page which is full of links to useful info and companies, groups, and organisations who we look to for inspiration and motivation. For those of you who may be less familiar with our work, we recommend checking out About, What We Do & our FAQs for a full run-down of who we are. We also love our Past Events pages where you can browse a gallery of photos showcasing what we got up to from 2016-19 - just a little taster of what you might expect from us, as soon as we’re fully back up-and-running!
New for 2022, we've set up a Bechdel Theatre Suggestion Box where you can tell us what kind of events or activities you're looking forward to in the new year, to help us figure out how to best use our time, energy, and money (if/when we get some) in the near future
As always, if you have a show coming up that you think our followers would enjoy, feel free to simply tag us in your promo posts. We’re always more than happy to RT and share work that looks like the kind of thing we wanna see more of - no need to ask first.
💗 Beth & Pippa x
*Observant followers may have noticed it’s been AGES since we’ve done any proper posts on our socials, but we’ve been logging in semi-regularly to keep sharing and retweeting. We’re gradually coming back online in coming months. However, in keeping with our aim for sustainability over productivity, we’re taking things slowly, and not launching back into full-throttle daily posting until our next round of funding is secured.
Like what we do? Find out how to support our work.
On to the recommendations…
This list starts with online things to explore first (because we know not everyone can get to in-person performances right now), then in-person performances you can see immediately, followed by some to book further in advance, for anyone keen for something to look forward to in Spring/Summer!
We’re currently prepping to relaunch our podcast and hoping to start facilitating workshops and Bechdel Circle conversations again soon - so what better way to get back into the swing of all that than by listening to and taking part in as much as we can?
We’ve been even more obsessed with podcasts than ever this year. In particular we’ve loved: Graeae's Disability And… (interviews with disabled artists & industry figures) Rebel Dykes (a Bijou Stories podcast to accompany the fantastic film, currently available to rent on demand on BFI Player), The Drag King Cast (hosted by Pecs, featuring a stellar line-up of drag kings), The Final Girls (exploring the intersections of horror and feminism), Buffering The Vampire Slayer (because like everyone else we re-watched Buffy in lockdown), The TV That Changed Me, (about how TV shapes our lives) Growing Up With Gal-Dem (conversations about growing up, with weekly guests), Making It with Temi Wilkey (interviews about making theatre), and The 98% Pod (exploring what life’s *really* like for actors & performers).
Workshops and other activities we’re looking forward to taking part in include: artsdepot Fundraising from non-ACE Sources with Natalie Chan; Creative Writing: Autobiography in Playwriting & Creating Strong Female Characters - a series of workshops by Tamara von Werthern aimed at unlocking creativity particularly for female writers and parents in the creative arts; the new free regular Zoom sessions with Freelancers Make Theatre Work: Fortnightly Freelance Problem Solving and Yoga Tuesdays; and finally the group we’ve been turning to for solace and solidarity on the 2nd Sunday of every month this year: A Good Night Out Reading Group (read Maddy Costa’s excellent article about AGNO for more of a flavour of what it’s like).
For a real smorgasbord of stunning work accessible online, we’re directing everyone we know to look no further than the website of one of our favourite artists, Matilda Ibini. Matilda’s website is filled to the brim with treats, including: the radio adaptation of hit play Little Miss Burden (which she spoke about on our podcast in 2019); a 5 minute rom-com Head Over Wheels; and her Dear Fellow Writer letter (in partnership with tiata fahodzi and The Bruntwood Prize).
Milk Presents also have an incredible page on their website full of beautiful stuff to watch and listen to. We love Love Song for the Wild (a short film, a poem, a love song to rural queerz hoping to spot someone else on the horizon), and Big Ben (created for the Young Vic's My England series).
For more top-quality online-watches, BBC iPlayer has featured some incredible shows and performances to watch on screen recently, and lots of it is still available for a good few months. From the ‘Lights Up’ season of theatre filmed for TV, we recommend checking out J'Ouvert, Half Breed, and Buttercup.
All iPlayer shows have subtitles available, and Buttercup comes with a self-care kit for viewers who may find the themes triggering. Buttercup writer/performer Dorcas Seb can also be seen this summer in Vice Versa (at HOME Manchester Jul 1-2): An innovative, immersive show exploring one woman’s political awakening through music, spoken word, movement and digital storytelling.
Also on iPlayer, for anyone who felt as passionately as we did about salt. by Selina Thompson, we highly recommend the insightful TV adaptation of the show which pairs scenes from Selina’s performance with a recent interview by Afua Hirsch (Selina was also on our podcast talking about salt. when it was at the Royal Court, in 2019).
You might also enjoy this fun TV adaptation of Charly Clive and Ellen Robertson’s show Britney (the ‘comedy about a brain tumour’ that we featured on our podcast when it was an EdFringe show way back in 2017!).
Another show we adored from Edinburgh Fringe, Too Pretty To Punch - a comedy spoken word show about gender, the media and not fitting any of the boxes - has been made available online by writer/performer Edalia Day via her website (recording is subtitled, with audio described version available). You can also see Too Pretty To Punch live on tour this year - it’s going to Leeds and Luton in February.
If comedy is what you’re looking for, to get you through to Spring, Soho Theatre have some great shows available online by stand-ups we love, including: Mae Martin & Jen Brister, Desiree Burch & Sarah Keyworth (all available with subtitles).
Moving onto in-person comedy at Soho you can catch the always hilarious Sikisa sharing a work-in-progress show in February, and The LOL Word are filling two consecutive nights with all-queer women, trans and non-binary comics in March.
Soho also has a really cracking in-person theatre season coming up, including some of our all-time absolute favourite shows making a welcome return. We recommend (deep breath) Your Sexts Are Shit, Queens of Sheba, Juniper & Jules Before I Was A Bear, Splintered (revisit our 2019 podcast about Splintered with Emily Aboud & Charlotte Dowding for more on this glorious show), and Amelia Stubberfield’s UnReAlities of Love, which was totally charming when we were lucky enough to catch a work-in-progress performance of it between lockdowns last year. We’re looking forward to seeing Amanda Wilkin’s Shedding A Skin come back to Soho after a sell-out run in May 2021, and thrilled at the chance to discover some new work in Naomi Denny’s Essentially Black, Iman Qureshi’s The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs, and Sherine Chalhie’s Why So Syrian?
The Space has a wealth of online and in-person offerings coming up in 2022. Later this month, join an online recording with a watch party and Q&A with the Creative Team of Friday Night Love Poem: Three coming-of-age stories, one epic play about the journey to embracing female pleasure. Friday Night Love Poem is streaming on demand until Jan 22. The rest of The Space’s season also offers a choice to watch most shows either in-person or via livestream. We really like the sound of: Room, Pass It On, Piss and Bile, and drag artist Crystal Bollix’s Definitely Maybe Actually Nevermind.
There’s just one week left to catch The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart at Manchester Royal Exchange until Jan 15 - a wild musical play sees Scottish folk songs collide with decadent karaoke under the direction of Debbie Hannan (BSL performance on Jan 13)
Fair Play is at The Bush for a few more weeks until Jan 22 then streaming online Feb 7-12. A gripping exploration of the underside of women’s athletics, Fair Play is the new work from Ella Road whose writing we loved in The Phlebotomist. (Audio Described and Captioned performances available)
Mulan Rouge is at The Vaults until Jan 23
The wonderful worlds of Disney’s Mulan and Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge have been crashed together a drag-tastic parody by ShayShay. Tickets come with the option to include a meal fit for an Empress - with all dietary requirements catered for.
HOW TO CATCH A PIG AND OTHER STORIES is at Matchstick Piehouse Jan 29 Liv Wynter presents a scratch night of unfinished business, aided and abetted by DJs, Drag Kings and live music. Expect a rowdy line up and extracts from previously unseen work.
Ada Campe: Too Little, Too Soon is at The Phoenix Arts Club Feb 7 & 15 Join award-winning variety artiste Ada Campe for a Work-in-Progress performance of Too Little, Too Soon – a tale of secrets, lies, lost loves and amphibian water ballets. “Resembles an unhinged super-villain” - DIVA magazine.
Fantastically Great Women is currently touring until June including Aylsbury, Chichester, Salford, Edinburgh, Exeter, Sheffield and Poole. The world premiere of the brand new kickass-pirational pop musical, based on the award-winning picture book by Kate Pankhurst. (Captioned, audio described, and BSL signed performances are available at most venues).
We’re very excited for the long-awaited opening of Brixton House in early 2022, with a handful of great-looking shows already listed on their website. In March, Heather Agyepong is bringing a powerful new solo The Body Remembers which will explore how trauma lives in the body, particularly for Black British women. There’s also a chance to check out work from some of Switzerland’s most dynamic artists, including Black Off by Ntando Cele, and Here & Now by Trân Tran.
Lunar New Queer is at The Glory on Feb 5
The Bitten Peach family are ringing in the new year with their annual show celebrating queer Asian drag superstars. This year features Bindiya, Daddy & Co, Jason Kwan, Lusty Lovelace, ShayShay & Sunny the Snake Boy in a socially-distanced table-seated show, followed by a Year of the Tiger Dance Party. The Bitten Peach also have their own brilliant “queer Asian talk show” podcast.
Stanley Arts in South London is celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month throughout February with a season of queer-led performances, film screenings, art and activities, including Queer Diary, Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Hearts, and Takenbymarshall: Rainbowstarlighteyes.
Contact Manchester is platforming an excellent range of LGBTQ+ shows for Queer Contact in Feb. If we were in the area we’d be booking to see Glamrou (Feb 15), Ell and Mary’s Fitter (Feb 16), Emma Frankland’s Hearty (Feb 17) and cabaret performances from our some of our fave collectives: Pecs, The Bitten Peach, and The Enby Show.
Theatre-devising trio RashDash are returning to the stage, having all had babies in the past 2 years, with a new show: Oh Mother, exploring what it means to be, and to have, a family. Upcoming dates in May - Aug include Manchester, Bristol and London, with Audio Described, Captioned, and BSL performances currently listed for Manchester performances only. RashDash also have an album out, Don’t Go Back To Sleep, which they recorded in lockdown: Listen to the album for free on Bandcamp.
The White Card, Claudia Rankine’s first published play, is touring April - June to venues including Northern Stage, Leeds Playhouse, HOME Manchester & Soho Theatre. Fresh from its European premiere, directed by Natalie Ibu, The White Card invites us all to play our part in the debate, posing the question: ‘can society progress when whiteness remains invisible?’
Hedwig & the Angry Inch is at HOME Manchester and Leeds Playhouse in April - May is a rock ‘n’ roll story of self-acceptance and empowerment, starring non-binary drag queen Divina DeCampo – all accompanied by a live band (with Audio Described, BSL, Captioned, and Socially Distanced performances available).
Rice is touring Feb 4 – April 14 including Plymouth, Liverpool, York, Oxford, Scarborough, Sheffield, Manchester, and Newcastle. The UK premiere of a powerful new play from Asian-Australian writer Michele Lee, Rice is brimming with wickedly humorous observations on globalisation, politics and family.
As You Like It is touring Feb 4 - Jul 2 including New Vic Theatre, Stephen Joseph Theatre, York Theatre Royal, Leeds Playhouse, Liverpool Playhouse and more. In their 30th anniversary production, Northern Broadsides bring their bold, refreshing style to Shakespeare’s most musical and much-loved comedy with a cast of 12 Northern actors, including the magnificent EM Williams as Rosalind. Audio Described, BSL, Captioned, and Socially Distanced performances scheduled at some venues with more to be announced.
ENG-ER-LAND is touring until June including Warwick, Leeds, Newcastle, Plymouth, Poole, Bristol, Exeter, and Rotherham. Lizzie falls in love with the beautiful game, but then something happens to make her question her place in the stands. An energetic play about who’s really on your team. Written and performed by Hannah Kumari, directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair.
Two Billion Beats is at The Orange Tree Feb 5 - Mar 5
Two sisters meet outside the school gates each afternoon, smarting at the injustice of the world around them. Sonali Bhattacharyya’s new play is an insightful, moving and funny coming-of-age story about the unfairness of growing up in a world where you don’t make the rules.
Running with Lions is at Lyric Hammersmith Feb 10 - Mar 12
The first play from exciting new writing talent Sian Carter. Following a family death, a British-Caribbean family struggles with grief. Isolated by generational beliefs, challenges to faith & mental health, they live between things they do and do not say.
But I'm A Cheerleader is at The Turbine Theatre Feb 18 - April 16
Musical based on the cult film. Megan, an all-American high school cheerleader who has the perfect life, until she finds out her friends and family suspect her of being a lesbian and send her packing to ‘True Directions,’ a rehabilitation camp to set her straight.
Sad is at Omnibus Theatre April 5 - 30
A brand-new dark comedy about escaping your problems and the messiness of life. On Christmas Day Gloria cooked the turkey that killed her mother. Now Gloria’s in the attic, sleeping on a dog bed and shitting in a bucket. Written by Victoria Willing, directed by Marie McCarthy.
Home, I'm Darling is at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds Mar 18 - Apr 2
Laura Wade’s blistering comedy takes a scalpel to gender roles in modern Britain through the eyes of a 21st-century couple slowly discovering that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.
Seven Scenes From the End of Everything is at Bold Elephant May 4 - 8
The new play by Chris Bush is a darkly funny, irreverent and thought provoking play that explores the end of the world. Directed by BOLD’s Artistic Director Sarah Davey-Hull.
Marys Seacole is at Donmar Warehouse April 15 - June 4
Putting the concept of a biopic through a kaleidoscope, Marys Seacole is a dazzling exploration, across oceans and eras, of what it means to be a woman who is paid to care, and how, ultimately, no one is in charge of their own story. Directed by Nadia Latif, Jackie Sibblies Drury’s new play reunites the team behind critically-acclaimed Fairview in 2019. (Audio Described, BSL, and Captioned performances scheduled).
The Fellowship is at Hampstead Theatre June 17 - July 23
Children of the Windrush generation, sisters Dawn and Marcia grew up in 1980s London and were activists on the front line. Decades on, they find they have little in common beyond family. The world premiere of Roy Williams’ play is, by turns, an electrifying, hilarious, gripping tale set in modern Britain. Directed by Paulette Randall.
That’s all for now!
Wishing everyone a happy 2022, and crossing our fingers and toes that all the shows on this list can go ahead safely and without a hitch 🙏
NB: This blog is written by a disorganised dyslexic - please let us know if you spot any mistakes.