Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Book Review: 50 WOMEN IN THEATRE

An inclusive and all-around eye-opening account of how theatre has changed.

Book Review: 50 WOMEN IN THEATRE

A brilliant new collection of voices has just hit bookshelves. 50 Women in Theatre, published by Aurora Metro, shines a light on the invaluable contributions of women across all disciplines and fields of stagecraft. From stage designers to actors, the volume is an inclusive and all-around eye-opening account of how theatre has changed from the post-war period to now.

Collated during a turbulent - yet pivotal - time in the industry that saw thousands of theatre workers suddenly unemployed and unaided by the government, the good and the bad sides of the business all take their place among the pages. Personal accounts and essays paint a glorious picture of theatre, its strengths and its weaknesses, the passion and the pain.

The list of artists who speak or are spoken about is easily impressive. The 25 exclusive interviews feature prominent women such as director and writer Vicky Ireland, actress Denise Gough, playwright Winsome Pinnock, and artistic directors Emma Rice, Michelle Terry and Kumiko Mendl. These dialogues become an enlightening path into the dazzling minds of these groundbreaking women, how they work, why they do what they do, and, mostly, what inspires them daily.

Other than these first-hand reports, the book sees pieces of writing on other incredible women who have made - and are making - theatre history. Director Joan Littlewood (The Mother of Modern Theatre), actresses Judi Dench, Glenda Jackson, Audra McDonald and Chita Rivera, playwrights Caryl Churchill and Gcina Mhlophe, producers Nica Burns and Sonia Friedman are only a few of the names featured.

Role models, challenges and practices sit side by side with funny anecdotes and crucial nuggets of theatre history. While the language is, as expected, not exceptionally consistent in style due to the various people "speaking", it's easy to be compelled by the contents even when it's at its most verbose.

If there's one thing editor Cheryl Robson puts in perspective it's how white theatre was in the past and still is. While there clearly is an attempt at broadening the spectrum of theatre-makers - and a good one that is - of the 50, only one out of five is a person of colour. Of course, this is the byproduct of a racist industry, and books like this are a visual reminder of the deep need to keep the conversation going.

50 Women in Theatre is published by Aurora Metro and out now.

Vote Now for the 2022 BroadwayWorld UK / West End Awards
voting ends in

Photos & Video: First Look at ALADDIN at Wolverhampton Grand Photo
See production photos and show footage from Wolverhampton Grand Theatre's magical pantomime adventure, ALADDIN, which is now open and runs until Saturday 7 January 2023. 

Photos: Matthew Modine & Cecilia Noble Join TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD Photo
Get a first look at Matthew Modine and Cecilia Noble, now leading the new company of the critically acclaimed production of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird - a new play by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Bartlett Sher, currently running at the Gielgud Theatre, West End.

NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND to Kick off The Watermill 2023 Season Photo
The Watermill will kick off its 2023 season with the brand-new stage adaption of Bill Bryson’s award-winning memoir NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND, affectionately celebrating the quirks and eccentricities of British life, adapted by BAFTA and Olivier Award winning playwright Tim Whitnall.

Review: A CHRISTMAS GAIETY, Royal Albert Hall Photo
Drag queens are rarely charged with the crime of being understated so it is hardly surprising that San Fran’s Peaches Christ and her co-host Edwin Outwater chose to partner up with the Royal Albert Hall for the UK debut of their perennial Christmas show.

From This Author - Cindy Marcolina

Italian export. Member of the Critics' Circle (Drama). Also a script reader and huge supporter of new work. Twitter: @Cindy_Marcolina

... (read more about this author)

December 6, 2022

Playwright Paul Morrissey explores a fascinating case, transforming it into a boutique paranormal thriller whilst trying to explain the lead-up to their disappearance. Directed by Shilpa T-Hyland, Wickies: The Vanishing Men of Eilean Mor is a good alternative to the Christmas stories that traditionally haunt London at this time of year.

Review: ON THE LINE, Camden People's TheatreReview: ON THE LINE, Camden People's Theatre
December 1, 2022

While only one hour long, Teglia’s script has a lot of surplus material that’s solely used to bring the topics up. Tia and Kai regale Sienna with the crazy tales of their wild childhood on the estate, painting a clichéd picture of contemporary disadvantaged youth versus their luckier pals. They’re happy in their world. Sienna is obviously not. What should be a layered piece remains explored only on a surface level without much empathy shown to either side of privilege.

Review: BEST OF ENEMIES, Noël Coward TheatreReview: BEST OF ENEMIES, Noël Coward Theatre
November 29, 2022

It's an exceptional addition to a Theatreland that's generally lacking in political engagement, especially during the Christmas period. It's intense, brainy, and absolutely delectable. The latest West End must-see.

Review: HENRY V, Shakespeare's GlobeReview: HENRY V, Shakespeare's Globe
November 25, 2022

Winter has come to the Globe and it brought Henry V to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse for the first time in its history. Holly Race Roughan directs William Shakespeare’s patriotic tale of pride, King, and country in a seductively lit evening that desperately wants to be a fresh anti-imperialist take but stumbles lightly on its own steps. The production - created in collaboration with Headlong Theatre, Leeds Playhouse, and Royal & Derngate - suggests a number of progressive, contemporary ideas that don’t quite take root fully.

Review: SARAH, The Coronet TheatreReview: SARAH, The Coronet Theatre
November 24, 2022

Oliver Reese, artistic director of the Berliner Ensemble, translates the tale for the stage transforming it into a one-man-show led by Jonathan Slinger. But do we need another white man’s poor-me point of view in 2022? The book has its merits, as does the play, but what is this show trying to say? It’s difficult to pinpoint.