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The Royal Court Is Making Women Nouns, Not Adjectives - Get Used to It

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I bet my Year 10 English teacher had no bloody idea what he'd just done when he introduced me to Caryl Churchill. Not personally, I've never met her, but I have walked past her a few times and had heart palpitations and grasped my friend and said 'I'VE JUST SEEN CARYL CHURCHILL MY HERO IN LIFE AND I CAN'T BREATHE'. They're normally like, are you okay, is she related to Winston?

Reading Top Girls at 15 changed my life. It opened up the world of feminism and politics and culture to me - the things that have gone on to define me. And it had a pink cover, cos it's about women, obviously.

Churchill's latest play, Escaped Alone, is magnificent. It has all the qualities that mark her out as the greatest living playwright - it's funny, it's complicated, and it's sinister.

But what's also important is that this is a play about four women in their 70s, sitting in a garden. It's revolutionary. How is theatre going to go back from this? I'll be honest with you - it's not.

Why? Because the Royal Court is leading the way in putting women centre stage. In I Love Dick, Chris Kraus wrote, vitally, 'Who gets to speak and why is the only question'. Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone is re-writing the answer.

It's too long to list all the brilliant voices Featherstone has brought to the stage, but we've already had Zinnie Harris re-write the rule book on female protagonists in How to Hold Your Breath, and Penelope Skinner's Linda reminding us of the infuriating erasure women experience as they get older.

The fact that Escaped Alone is about four older women is crucial. But it's also crucial because now that it's been allowed to happen, it's shown that their age is totally irrelevant. This isn't tokenism - if it were that simple you could just put my nan's Beetle Drive session from the residential home on stage (not actually possible, she's dead).

This is sincere. Because this work from Churchill and Featherstone is not about staging A Woman Play by a Female Writer. Here, women are people. As Gloria Steinem once said, gender has become a noun, not an adjective.

The Royal Court is leading the charge, and will continue to do so, with Kate Mitchell freeing Ophelia from the shackles of Hamlet later in the season, as well as the extraordinary Noma Dumezweni making her directorial debut.

But there is also exciting work elsewhere from young company Damsel Productions, whose mission statement is to bring plays about women to the stage. They already laid their quite frankly thrilling calling card with their acclaimed production of Ruby Rae Spiegel's Dry Land at the end of last year.

And when the Abbey Theatre in Ireland only included one female writer in its commemorative anniversary programme, Waking the Nation, a ground-swelling of 'fuck this shit' gathered pace on social media with the hashtag #WakingTheFeminists.

What's most exciting is that there's an appetite for this work. Sarah Gavron, director of Suffragette, has spoken of the difficulty financing a film about women, with women in starring roles. It took her six years to get it made; likewise, Carol, the love story of two women, took 11. But now these films are getting made and getting watched, and women are being seen on screen and stage. And I mean really, properly seen, as opposed to just standing there like a quiet lampshade with breasts.

It's no longer acceptable to revere Pinter and his sausage party groping pile-ons, or Sir David Hare writing that thing again about a posh white bloke who is very well educated and might go into politics and likes classical music.

How do you get more women on stage? Put them on there. See what happens. Don't worry that they're going to fuck it up and just start talking about periods and babies. That's not going to happen. The Royal Court and Caryl Churchill are proof that the tide has turned, and you might as well have a nice swim.

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