Tonic Theatre

Tonic Theatre is an organisation that aims to achieve greater gender equality across UK theatres across all roles. I went to a talk celebrating the work of the Tonic Theatre initiative at The Sam Wanamaker Theatre in London. I didn’t quite know what to expect, it was unusual for me to enter a theatre without seeing a performance. The candles were lit and 5 chairs laid out on stage for the chair and the speakers.tonic-thetare-celebrates

  • Lucy Kerbel, Tonic Theatre’s Director and chair of the event
  • Tanika Gupta, Writer for stage, screen and radio
  • Emma Rice, Artistic Director for Shakespeare’s Globe
  • Rachel Bown-Williams, Fight director and founder of RC-Annie
  • Ruth Cooper-Brown, Fight director and founder of RC-Annie

Emma Rice talked about directing. She said that there is no prescribed way but her approach is to create a playful environment in the rehearsal room so that the actors feel safe and the space is free.

“Fear is the greatest enemy”

She has received quite a lot of criticism in the press such as being called ‘loud’ and ‘opinionated’ which she responded with “Who says that to a man, I’m doing my job”. The criticism surrounding her directing seems to be implying that being loud and opinionated is inappropriate for a woman and it is worrying that critiques are fighting that freedom of speech and gender equality that is finally coming through.

The evening was refreshingly positive. The speakers encouraged young people who are interested in the theatre industry to strive for …

  • waking up and going to a job you love
  • doing something for the love of it not money
  • getting your foot in the door early on
  • not taking everything so personally, criticism etc.

And ultimately to enjoy growing up and the experiences that come with that.

RC-Annie is a dramatic violence company established by Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown in 2005 who give training and fight direction to the entertainment industry. At the Tonic Theatre event they talked about creating a safe space with boundaries, taking the gender out of the action, so that the actors feel comfortable with the fight direction that they are being taught. Scenes can be violent or so out of character for an actor that they become uncomfortable so it’s important to provide support not only health and safety but this safe atmosphere as well.

As I studied the progression of gender equality in the industry for my independent research project last year and looked closely at the work Tonic Theatre instigated across UK theatres; I found the evening insightful. It was wonderful to hear from women working in different roles within the theatre industry and above all I took away the important message that you should be confident and in particular women in theatre need to

Stop apologising.