(Susannah Clapp’s article appeared in the Observer, 10/11.)

It is not only gender. Phyllida Lloyd’s tremendous all-women Henry IV roughs up expectations on front after front. Her text – which combines parts I and II – is severely cut. Her cast look more various than ever before. Some are round, some are brown, some white, some sluttish. They sound more varied, too. Scots and Irish and cockney are central voices, not just exotic jollities. In this abridged version you hear few disquisitions about the state of the nation. Instead, the state is embodied onstage.

It is gender that has made the news. Reasonably enough. Theatre is on a cusp. It is waking up to feminism: not simply debating it but living it. Last month Sarah Frankcom’s Royal Exchange production of Hamlet not only had Maxine Peake as the Prince but also a female Polonius, Rosencrantz and Marcellus. Simultaneously a Tonic Theatre debate raised the question of female quotas. Now everyone leaps up to say they don’t like quotas. I don’t either and would not consider them as other than a shock-troop measure. I don’t like Elastoplast either, but I like the wound less.


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