By Lucy Kerbel
You may think things are getting better for women in theatre, we’ve seen all-female Shakespeare take to some of our National stages, I mean, only a couple of weeks ago was Dominic Cavendish lamenting in the Telegraph over the death of the great male actor what with roles like Lear and Malvolio now being handed over to women. With things getting a little better, there’s always a risk of complacency before the work is truly done, which is why, perhaps, this is perfect timing for Lucy Kerbel’s book, All Change Please, to be released in to the hands of those that are well aware there is still a huge amount of work to be done in terms of gender equality on the UK’s stages. Or even in to the hands of those that may be questioning if it’s still a problem in 2017.
At The LGBTQ Arts Review we see this imbalance reflected in LGBT theatre on a daily basis. I first heard of Kerbel in 2014, when her company, Tonic Theatre, released statistics from an intensive study on women’s employment in theatre. They are statistics I have used time and time again when talking on panels about women in theatre or whilst in the midst of a debate as to whether or it gender equality is still an issue in theatre. It’s these statistics and Kerbel’s continuing work with Tonic that create the foundations for this book.
Whether you’re an A-Level student taking Theatre Studies, or the Artistic Director of a large theatre, All Change Please will likely put a new spin on one or more aspects of your thinking about the gender balance (or imbalance) in theatre. Having experienced the industry first-hand as a director allows Kerbel to reflect on her experiences of being on the inside, and rather than criticising or ruminating over the problems, she instead practically shares her insight in to what action could and should be taken. It’s easy to read, and enjoyable – certainly one I’ll be keeping on my bookshelf to inform my own practice as a theatre maker, as well as to back up points I wish to make in the future on the gender imbalance in theatre.
Kerbel has broken the book in to three sections, with bite-sized subsections, laying out plainly what individuals can do to take action. It’s an empowering read and leaves you feeling both able and ready to take some form of action. I particularly enjoyed the section on unconscious bias, which is becoming more talked about in several institutions, but is certainly a conversation we need to continue having in theatre. Kerbel neatly defines unconscious bias and steps we can all take, wherever we work, to ensure we don’t fall in to its trap.
As a theatre-maker myself, this book made me hugely reassess my own practice and ambitions. It talks a lot about streamlining your impact, and lays out ways in which you might go about doing this; it will certainly change the ways and places in which I focus my energies.
This is a book for writers, youth theatre facilitators, venue producers, festival organisers, directors, actors, theatre studies teachers, GSCE / A-Level or undergrad students studying theatre, devisors, theatre makers and anyone else working in the industry. There’s is still a huge amount of work to do, but Kerbel breaks it down, making equality feel a little closer to our grasp.
(C) AmieAmieTay 2017