(Lyn Gardner’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/23.)
What a difference four years make. When Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female version of Julius Caesar, set in a women’s prison, premiered at the Donmar in 2012, cross-gender casting was still perceived by some as a novelty, and theatre’s feminists were only stirring. By the time the second production in the trilogy, Henry IV, opened in 2014, research carried out for Tonic Theatre’s Advance programme had highlighted the shocking gender inequality on Britain’s stages and Maxine Peake was playing Hamlet in Manchester.
Now, as a pared-down version of The Tempest completes the trilogy – in which each filleted production is remarkable, but when seen consecutively are utterly extraordinary – there is a growing critical mass of gender-blind casting. Glenda Jackson is playing King Lear at the Old Vic and Anna Francolini is Captain Hook at the National Theatre, where Tamsin Greig will soon play Malvolio.