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Pink Sari Revolution

Celebrating Women in Theatre for IWD 2018

Posted on 8 March 2018

With Thursday 8 March marking International Women’s Day 2018, we’ve been taking a look back at some of the amazing female-led shows we’ve hosted over the last few years. On a day dedicated to celebrating the diverse achievements of women, and we’re proud to be able to reflect on the massively diverse array of productions we have staged in recent times, highlighting stories from all around the world about characters from all walks and all stages of life.

Moreover, at a time when diversity and gender imbalance are high on the agenda of arts and entertainment organisations around the world, we’re pleased to be able to count ourselves among those taking significant steps to ensure that we represent a wide range of voices both on and off stage. Here are a few of our highlights.

Pink Sari Revolution

The second in a series of co-productions with Leicester Curve, this powerful production dramatised a story largely unfamiliar to UK audiences, shining a light on the real-life Indian women’s rights activist Sampat Pal. Born in the impoverished Uttar Pradesh region, Pal was married aged just 12 and had five children by the time she reached 20. Yet Pal was never destined to play the passive housewife: it was during her teens that she took her first stance against the culture of domestic violence she witnessed around her, joining forces with other local women to give a neighbour who had been abusing his wife a taste of his own medicine. Thus Pal’s famous Gulabi (meaning pink) Gang was formed.

Though her recourse to violence and tendency to push forward her agenda with or without the support of victims have made her something of a controversial figure, it’s hard to overstate her influence in her native country. Inspired by Amana Fontanella-Khan’s non-fiction book about the group, this searing adaptation by Purva Naresh saw a defiant Syreeta Kumar deliver a breathtaking tour de force as Pal herself, alongside a furious Ulrika Krishnamurti as Sheelu – a young woman whose rape case Pal takes up.

Made in India

Made in India

Another Belgrade co-production starring Syreeta Kumar and Ulrika Krishnamurti, this vital new play by Satinder Chohan was so current that its story had to be radically changed during the writing process. Produced in partnership with Tamasha and Pilot Theatre and directed by Katie Posner, it followed the intertwining stories of three women who meet in a surrogacy clinic in Gujarat, formerly known as the commercial surrogacy capital of the world.

For Londoner Eva (Gina Isaac), India’s booming surrogacy industry was her last chance of having a baby of her own. For village girl Aditi (Krishnamurti), a dairy worker and single mother, the opportunity offered a lifeline out of poverty. For clinic owner and businesswoman Dr Gupta, it was all just another transaction….

This explosive new show explored what happened to them all as the tide of public opinion changed and new legislation was eventually introduced.

Red Snapper

Red Snapper

The first play to come out of our own Critical Mass new black writing scheme, Red Snapper ran as part of our “Hidden Histories” season, taking revolutionary fervour in Jamaica as its central theme. In 1962, a radical new Jamaica had begun to emerge, thrilling with the excitement of independence, or providing the setting for the iconic James Bond movie Dr No and the hope of political change instilled by Fidel Castro overseas.

The show marked the playwriting debut of Coventry based writer Liz Mytton, and was directed by our own Associate Director Justine Themen. It also starred an all-female cast, unusually taking on the roles of both the story’s female characters and their husbands, allowing for incisive commentary on the country’s gender politics as we bore witness to the different lives of men and women.

Bubbly Black Girl

The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin

On tour from Theatre Royal Stratford East, this sparklingly funny show turned turned the tropes of musical theatre on their head, with its title character taking on the kind of effusive persona we’re used to seeing in such shows as a kind of defence mechanism to protect her from the harsh realities of everyday racism and sexism in the world around her. This clever coming-of-age story saw three different women star as the lead character, Viveca (aka “Bubbly”) at different stages in her life, from her youth during the Civil Rights Movement in 1960s LA right through to New York in the 1990s.

Rise

Rise

Writer Liz Mytton and director Justine Themen reunited for this outstanding production from our own Belgrade Young Company, showcasing the massive talent that the city has to offer. Featuring another all-female cast, it called attention to the challenges faced by women and girls in 21st-century Britain. Frustrated by experiences of everday sexism, a group of young women hijacked a van and headed off on a road trip to seek solace from their idol, Beyonce. But things didn’t quite work out as planned, leaving them forced to look elsewhere to resolve their difficulties.

La Strada

La Strada

A visually stunning reworking of Federico Fellini’s Oscar-winning movie masterpiece, La Strada saw the masterful Sally Cookson bring her signature style to bear on the story of a young woman sold off by her mother as an assistant to a travelling performer. Working from a script devised together with the cast, this magical, musical journey through an impoverished Italian landscape featured a sensational lead performance by Audrey Brisson.

A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the Sun

Brought to the stage by leading black-led touring company Eclipse, this new production of the classic American play marked the beginning of an exciting new partnership for the Belgrade that will continue as its Revolution Mix project unfolds. Inspired by the real-life housing discrimination that existed in 1940s and 50s America, the play was written by the pioneering Lorraine Hansberry, the first black female playwright to have a play performed on Broadway. Starring Susan Wokoma, Alisha Bailey and Angela Wynter, it was helmed by Eclipse’s Artistic Director Dawn Walton.