Dramatist April de Angelis, who will be in conversation for our lunchtime series Culture Now this Friday, shares her thoughts on women writers:
What’s it like to be a woman writer? Is it ‘harder’ to be taken seriously? I’d say yes. A woman is eccentric in the sense that they cannot comprise the centre, standard, basic template of a playwright.
Recently I read a review for a young woman’s play where she was accused of ‘palpable intelligence’. Now my bet is that you would look hard to find that attributed to a male writer because to call a male writer intelligent would be to commit a tautology. These are the subtle criteria that affect the critical reception of plays. This is the water we swim in! On another level the contemporary critical consciousness is appeased at a deep primitive level if a woman dies in a play. If the unspoken aggressions which our society likes to unleash on women at an unconscious (and conscious!) level is enacted within a play, if a woman is punished in a play through say, death, the play is less threatening and more rewarded. (Also the water we swim in). What surprised me about Jumpy (2011) is that it was allowed to be ‘successful’ despite the fact that it was funny (therefore not palpably political enough even though it was political), that it fore-grounded relationships between women, and that a woman didn’t have to die in it.
Lyn Gardner blogged in the Guardian that she had ‘lost count of the amount of times that women had come up to her and said they had taken their daughters to see Jumpy and it had changed their relationship’. She couldn’t understand this and blogged that perhaps it was the fact of their going to the theatre together rather than the play itself that had created this transformation. Gardner is implying that women are so dumb that they could have gone to see Mein Kampf the musical and still have come out with their relationship transformed; it was merely the mechanical act of sitting in a seat and having the lights dimmed and seeing bodies gesticulate before them that acted on these undiscriminating dullards. No one could have accused male members of the audience of such lack of agency. This is the water we swim in…