The decision by the Holnest Theatre Workshop to adopt gender-blind casting protocols for all of its future productions caused no little consternation back in September 2017 when it was first proposed for the group's production of Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr(s) Sloane-Ranger with the role of native scout Kemusabe being given, on equality grounds, to Native Dorsetian Mae West Bexington. In the event, more conservative voices prevailed and instead the role went to veteran indigenous-persons imitator Al Jol's son (Kevin Jol) whose performances earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor/Actress Award in a Role That Should Have Gone To Someone Else at the 2018 Dorset Academy of Film and Television Arts [DAFTA] Annual Bony Awards. [His co-star in the black mask (Ownlee Slitzfürize) was also nominated - for Best Leap Onto a Moving Horse - but had to settle instead for a broken leg.
Anyone imagining, however, that the gender-agenda was somehow on the back-burner - postponed, as it were, sine die - is in for a rude awakening after today's announcement by Artistic Director Polly Tickly-Korekt that the Company's production of Hedda Gabler will star none other than Bob Danvers Thrupiece as the eponymous "heroine", supported by Noficks d'Jendar as his/her husband and (in a further departure from theatrical tradition) toy pomeranian - Mongomery Clifton Suspension Bridge III - as Mrs Elvsted. The producers have denied rumours that they have pulled back from their original intention "to go the whole hog" by recasting the entire play as Eddie the Gabbler and relocating it to 12th century Penzance. "That", a spokesperson for the company opined , "would just be ridiculous ... so we will probably leave it a year".
Theatre critic Ayemon Side believes the changes are fully justified, arguing that gender-blind casting brings not only a whole new perspective to familiar plays but also forces the audience to re-evaluate both their understanding of the work and their attitudes to theatrical verisimilitude. 'Nothing puzzles an audience more, undermines its sense of security or makes plays more unintelligible that ensuring that they have no idea which character is which", he said. "If the appearances of the characters and their behaviours also go completely against the text and do structural damage to the integrity of the plot, thereby undermining the author's whole intention, then it's a win win situation. Having an audience concentrate on whether the woman with the huge-strapped down tits, pony tail, overfilled-shirt, suit and tie is a woman playing a man or a woman playing a woman playing a man or a woman playing a man as a woman is great for the theatre and ensures that no-one even thinks about the meaning of the drama. It keeps everyone on their toes and ensures that nobody coming out of the theatre is even thinking about the quality of the acting, scenery, production or plot. Instead they are far more likely to be asking "why did they choose the one with the biggest knockers to play the guy?" 'If you ask me, that's what thoughtful analysis is all about."
Bob Danvers Thrupiece stars as Hedda Gabler in the Holnest Theatre Workshop's production of Ibsen's comic masterpiece at the Theatre Royal, Winterborne Monkton from the 8th - 9th February at 8.30. Carriages 8.45.