For Gwyn and all the girls

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IN Shakespeare’s day all female roles were played by men. Now, a Perth theatre company is aiming to turn that upside down.

Her Infinite Variety Ensemble hit the scene last year, causing a stir with its all-male cast of Titus Andronicus.

Now its new work, Playhouse Creatures, will honour the first women on English stages from its new small theatre, the Guild Studio, on Claisebrook Road.

Working out of the old Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance building, Angelique Malcolm says the troupe decided to start its own playhouse because of a lack of venues.

“There’s been a lot of theatre closures like the Rechabites Hall, the old Playhouse, there’s been less and less opportunity.”

Many venues still around are run by the international company AEG Ogden, and Ms Malcolm says its prices are out of reach.

The new State Theatre is also not proving viable for smaller operators: In 2011 renowned playwright John Aitken found his arts department funding and ticket sales weren’t enough to cover the costs of his season of The Enchanters.

He sold his home to help pay the debt, with local actors organising a fundraiser to help him stay on his feet.

Ms Malcolm says there aren’t many roles for older women, who are often discarded by the performing arts as they age.

HIVE aims to put women on the stage and also in the production roles.

The play chosen to christen the venue is a celebration of women in theatre, profiling the first five women to step onto English stages in 1669 after King Charles II lifted a Puritan ban on plays (one of the women, Nell Gwyn, was one of the fun-loving king’s many mistresses).

“It caused a great big stir and in those days they used to show a bit of booby on stage,” Ms Malcolm says. They’ll be invoking a bit of that practice when the play hits the stage in Perth. But as Gwyn “got older, she was ousted, as happens today”. “There are so many comparisons between the 1600s and today!”

The show runs Tuesdays to Saturdays until June 8 at the Guild Studio. Book through http://www.trybooking.com/BNAU

by DAVID BELL

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