Guest Blog: Frankie Meredith Talks Flawed Women And TURKEY
We aren't used to flawed females on stage. If we do come across one, they tend to either be sexy or sectioned - they're rarely just real women.
What we need in our theatres in Britain is more stories about women (preferably told by more women, but that's a different argument altogether) and they need to be characters that we can relate to. Characters that have flaws, that mess things up, that we can empathise with and root for despite of their imperfections - in fact, because of their imperfections. We adore an underdog, we love a bad boy, but what about the underbitch and the bad girl? Why aren't we rooting for them?
My new play Turkey explores one woman's desire to have a baby. The trouble is she is in a lesbian relationship and so the path to pregnancy has added complexities. Madeline manipulates and plays games with her partner Toni, as well as with the person they decide to have the baby with. She behaves selfishly, is egotistical and will do whatever she can to have this child, even if that involves hurting the people she is meant to love most in the world.
Madeline doesn't do all these spiteful things to be mean. She isn't setting out to hurt these people on purpose. Her actions are totally justified in her head - it's just what she has to do to get what she wants.
I hope, as the creator of this character, that she isn't hated. I want people to sympathise with her and to realise that enough has happened in her life to make these actions not justified but at least comprehensible. As a society, we seem to be able to understand and even empathise with the flawed male characters so often presented to us, such as the mob bosses and the serial cheaters.
However, this so rarely happens when it comes to females who are more often portrayed as 'hysterical' or 'mental'. While Madeline in this play is often labelled that by other characters, as that's what we humans do to one another, I want the audience to feel differently. Even if it's pity or sympathy, anything but walking out of the theatre hearing "She was just crazy" would please me.
It isn't totally unheard of to have women like Madeline on stage. Most recently with the celebrated People, Places & Things from the National and Yerma at the Young Vic, women have been placed centre stage and as an audience member I sympathised with them, I was on their side the whole time. Even though their behaviour was awful and they hurt the people they loved, quite catastrophically at times, I still wanted them to be okay, I still wanted it to work out for them.
Female stories are being told, more frequently than ever, but it is imperative that we push this, to make it the norm not the exception. Support your fringe theatres with female majority casts and if you write yourself, question which sex the character needs to be. More often than not a character can change gender without impacting a script negatively - in fact it can have the opposite effect.
Stories about women need to be told, and not in an airbrushed way. We have a good go at messing things up in real life just as much as men; it's time these tales were told too.