It may seem counter-intuitive, but there are certain plays we write which we hope will become out-dated: Plays about discrimination, inequality, problematic work practices, about violence and hate crimes. I wrote peeling in the first years of this new century, a commission from Graeae Theatre Company which was first produced in 2002 and 2003, and adapted for BBC Radio 3. It is a playful but hard-hitting piece, a metatheatrical play within a play, featuring one Deaf and two disabled female performers as the chorus of a post-dramatic production of The Trojan Women: Then and Now.
Alfa, Coral and Beaty are ‘the right on ticks on an equal opportunities monitoring form’, performers cast for their impairments, left on stage, hidden behind the scenery of an inaccessible theatre as the ‘real play’ goes on around them. Throughout the sections where the women are performing as chorus, the relentless waste of war and the position of women in conflict is examined. When the women are ‘off’, they seek light relief. As they gossip, laugh, bitch, gang up on one another and share recipes and anecdotes, the industry’s problematic attitude to difference and diversity is revealed.
When I wrote this play over seventeen years ago, I didn’t anticipate the many productions and readings it has since had all over the world, its issues and themes apparently as relevant as ever. This is bitter-sweet. I’m delighted that Taking Flight Theatre are producing and touring this play with a phenomenal all female cast, crew and company, but I had hoped when I wrote it all those years ago, its themes would have become outdated by 2019….
peeling was hailed as a “game-changer of a play” when first produced in 2002, “a minor feminist masterpiece” with stories pre-dating by almost two decades the current drive for diverse representation on our stages and screens. ‘Cripping up is the twenty-first century answer to blacking-up’ Alfa says – words that shocked in 2002, and have since become a slogan. We are still tussling with the politics of representation and I hope this production will ignite further reflection and debate. If you fancy engaging with me on this subject, I will be at several post-show talks during the Welsh leg of the tour: at the opening, International Women’s Day, 8th March at Riverfront Arts, Newport; at Theatre Clwyd on 19th March, and Aberystwyth Arts Centre on 26th March (Welsh tour dates, below, along with the audio flyer).
I will be writing further about the process of revising the script and my interaction with the brilliant women of Taking Flight’s peeling over the coming days. Hope you can come and join us:
- 8th & 9th @ Riverfront Arts, Newport – https://tickets.newportlive.co.uk/
- 13th @ Redhouse, Merthyr – http://www.redhousecymru.com/
- 14th @ Theatr Brycheiniog – https://brycheiniog.co.uk/
- 19th & 20th @ Theatr Clwyd – https://www.theatrclwyd.com/en/
- 21st @ Parc & Dare Treorchy – https://rct-theatres.co.uk/
- 23rd @ Y Galeri, Caernarfon – http://galericaernarfon.com/
- 26th @ Aberystwyth Arts Centre – https://www.aberystwythartscentre.co.uk/
- 27th @ The Torch, Milford Haven – https://torchtheatre.co.uk/
- 28th @ The Borough Theatre, Abergavenny – https://boroughtheatreabergavenny.co.uk/
- 29th @ Blackwood Miner’s Institute – http://your.caerphilly.gov.uk/bmi/content/welcome
- 2nd @ Pontardawe Arts Centre – https://npttheatres.co.uk/pontardawe/
- 10th @ Y Ffwrnes, Llanelli – https://www.theatrausirgar.co.uk/en
- 12th @ Pegasus Theatre, Oxford – https://pegasustheatre.org.uk/?post_type=shows&p=11780
- 30th – 2nd May @ Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff – https://www.chapter.org/