Cerith Wyn Evans wins Hepworth Sculpture Prize

Cerith Wyn Evans wins Hepworth Sculpture Prize

The sculptor who began his artistic career as an experimental film maker has won the £30,000 Hepworth Prize for Sculpture.

Horse sense

Horse sense

In the new year, a museum centre in Cambridgeshire will be offering a new and unique service no other could: horse therapy.

TAITMAIL       What NOW?

TAITMAIL What NOW?

Halfway through her brief tenure as culture secretary, Maria Miller did the only thing she will probably be remembered for, apart from standing down in the face of an expenses complaint. The expectation was for some kind of Westminster Abbey affair with a full set of royals and military on parade, but Mrs Miller had something else in mind.

Leeds to get new BFI operation

Leeds to get new BFI operation

Young Audiences Fund will set up in the Yorkshire city

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM   Image of the month

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM Image of the month

Harrow, London, 8th October 1952, by George Phillips

Lynette Linton to run Bush

Lynette Linton to run Bush

The director Lynette Linton is to succeed Madani Younis as artistic director the Bush Theatre in January.

THE WORD Rapping it up: Royston responds to Azealia Banks' UK rap comments

THE WORD Rapping it up: Royston responds to Azealia Banks' UK rap comments

An explosive American rapper has turned her fire on her British counterparts. Royston takes her on

Composing the future

Composing the future

The first four participants have been announced today in a new Glyndebourne development scheme for female composers, Balancing the Score, devised to help address the under-representation of female composers in classical music.

Boyle’s Remembrance Day beach homage

Boyle’s Remembrance Day beach homage

Ten’s of thousands took to Britain’s beaches on Rememberance Day to mark the centenary of the signing of the Armistice on Sunday.

Sculpture opens Westminster doors

Sculpture opens Westminster doors

The oldest building in the Palace of Westminster is hosting a contemporary sculpture marking the centenary of female franchise.

TAITMAIL   Governing the not so ungovernable

TAITMAIL Governing the not so ungovernable

Governance, the formulation and implementation of policy, has long been the slippery soap of the cultural sectors, arts and heritage.

Governance flagship launched

Governance flagship launched

The arts are coming together to tackle the long-standing issue of board effectiveness with the creation of the Cultural Governance Alliance (CGA).

Ex-ENO chief heads new music theatre company for London

Ex-ENO chief heads new music theatre company for London

A new West End based musical theatre venture has been launched by John Berry, former artistic director of English National Opera. 

Cath James steps up at SE Dance

Cath James steps up at SE Dance

And new chief executive for Art Asia.

Success in fight to save built heritage

Success in fight to save built heritage

Two-thirds of the buildings on the original Heritage at Risk Register of 1998 have been rescued, says Historic England in its annual update published today.

THE WORD   A Brexit doomsday for UK arts?

THE WORD A Brexit doomsday for UK arts?

Olivia Bridge is a content writer and political correspondent for Immigration Advice Service London, the UK’s leading immigration law firm.

20 years of Discerning sponsorship

20 years of Discerning sponsorship

The unique annual exhibition of small works of art, Discerning Eye, opens for the 27th time on November 15, the 20th to be sponsored by the European bank ING in one of the longest standing arts sponsorships.

Making the curriculum anti-war

Making the curriculum anti-war

Young people are being invited by artists to put an end to war, as a finale to the commemoration of the end of the First World War.

Why the hell not?

Storme Toolis burst onto the national scene three years ago in BBC TVs New Tricks, one of the few disabled actors to appear on screen whose disability is not a feature of the plot. now the 23-year-old has taken on one of the most demanding roles in the shakespearean canon – in a production of which she is creative director and which is the subject of a forthcoming television documentary

Redefining Juliet
Tim Bowie and Storme Toolis as Romeo and Juliet

Playing Juliet is something I have always wanted to do. I knew it wasn’t a matter of talent, ambition or luck as other actors may find – the reality is that disabled actors like me have never even been considered for mainstream romantic roles, much less the iconic role of Juliet.

She represents a starting point in casting. You can’t get bigger than Juliet if you want to challenge the universal image of young beauty and romance on stage. If no one would let me get past the casting call, I had to do the casting myself. So I devised Redefining Juliet – a play which casts six different women as Juliet who would normally never get the role. It takes Shakespeare’s major speeches for his young heroine and interjects them with verbatim accounts written by each actor, highlighting how they are perceived by others as women who just can’t do romance and love. The actors challenge the conventional casting of people like them, whether they’re small, or fat, or black, or tall, or deaf. Or like me, in a wheelchair. We had our showcase at the Barbican and the making of the play is the subject of a BBC4 documentary on May 1, part of the BBC’s Shakespeare Festival.

Redefining Juliet uses the character of Juliet as a springboard to address a range of issues that women face in casting. In the play, we talk about body image, sexuality, the limitations placed on actors who are different in any way. Casting decisions are routinely made on your appearance – you need to have the right look for a role, you have to fit the part according to the conventions surrounding it. But that approach only serves to support preconceptions about what counts as sexy and who can be an object of desire.

The women who are believed to fit that description come from a very small stable. I’m fed up of size eight white women with shoulder length light brown hair getting all the young romantic leads, and Juliet in particular. I want to broaden the horizons of who can play Shakespeare’s most iconic heroine. I want to challenge why tall women don’t get to play vulnerable characters, why very small women aren’t seen as objects  of desire. Why the hell not? The most important thing about playing a lead Shakespearean character is that the audience believes in her and believes in how she feels.

We need to trust these audiences more. They have the capacity to be open-minded when we confront them. When they encounter a Juliet who doesn’t fit their ideals of beauty, it probably matters in their heads for the first few minutes. But if she does the job, if you’re convinced by her acting that she’s desirable and in love – she’s Juliet. If these actors can convince the audience they are fully committed to Juliet’s journey, then we’ve succeeded in telling her story.

When I looked at the text of Romeo and Juliet I found that any physical description of Juliet is absent. She could look like any of our diverse actors. Shakespeare himself has nothing to say about her appearance – he doesn’t care whether she’s tall or short, fat or thin, white or black. (Remember, this supposedly waif-like woman would have been played by a man anyway.) The important thing about the character of Juliet is that she’s beautiful, driven and feisty. The women I cast in Redefining Juliet are all of these things.

I knew Juliet was a part for me, but the only way I can make that happen is by putting on the play myself. The sad reality is, in the current state of casting in our industry, all six of us who are Juliet in Redefining Juliet will probably never get to play this romantic lead again. But by claiming Juliet for all those fine women actors who’d never usually get past the casting call, I hope casting directors’ and audiences’ eyes are opened to the possibilities that women of all sorts of difference can play sexy, desirable, romantic roles. We can be all of these things. Just let us act.

Redefining Juliet - So You Think You Know Who Can Play Juliet? Think Again! will be broadcast on BBC4 on May 1 as part of the Shakespeare Festival.
Twitter @redefinejuliet

www.manyriversfilms.co.uk

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