See what's changed for actresses in the past 350 years - and what hasn't - in the wonderful production from Canberra's Pigeonhole Theatre, Playhouse Creatures, at QUT Gardens Theatre, August 28 - 29.
Written by April De Angelis and directed by Jordan Best, the production has received glowing reviews in our nation's capital, coming along at a time when the #MeToo movement has shone a troubling spotlight on women's unpleasant experiences in show business.
Playhouse Creatures is set at a bawdy and troublesome time if you were female. After King Charles II returned from his exile in France, he decreed that men were no longer to play the roles of women on stage. The fact that women could play women would seem to be a positive, but with societal norms the way they were, the situation presented a lot of harsh realities.
These actresses became known as the Restoration Actresses, with famous people such as Nell Gwynn and Mary Betterton achieving acclaim on some levels but also suffering the indignities of being thought of as little more than prostitutes at a time when no 'respectable' woman would act on stage.
The cast includes Liz Bradley, Amy Dunham, Jenna Roberts, Karen Vickery, Emma Wood and Zoe Priest. Says director Jordan Best, "When female roles were played by men, the writers wrote them as powerful protagonists, often driving the action. Once women took over they were mostly relegated to the faithful wife, the unfaithful wife, the whore, the mistress. They wrote rape scenes so they could show skin..."
The Independent on Sunday raved about Playhouse Creatures, saying, "With delicious absurd extracts from the heroic repertory and frantic dressing room scenes, the prevailing tone is comic but you are not allowed to forget the gutter waiting to reclaim these glittering figures."
Need to know - Recommended for ages 16+ (strong coarse language, partial nudity, adult themes).
By Vicki Englund
QUT Gardens Theatre is a valued partner of Must Do Brisbane.com