Hello from The Barded Ladies!

06 June 2016

Hello, we are Kat and Charlotte of The Barded Ladies! Having last taken part in the Bristol Shakespeare Festival with A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2014, we are super excited to be returning this year. Working again with Windmill Hill City Farm, who are as accommodating as ever, has once again given us a bright and creative platform for our show.

The new production, Henry VI Part III, is a bit of a departure for The Barded Ladies, not only because this will be our first large-scale show, but because our cast also includes… men! The production came to life from Charlotte’s academic work ‘The Regendering Project’, which aimed to explore the effects interchanging of gender has on Shakespeare’s texts. Now forming the basis for our production, this regendering poses questions about the role gender plays in wartime politics, and particularly in Shakespeare’s hyper-masculine history plays.

Queen Margaret is arguably Shakespeare’s strongest female character. By transforming Margaret into a man and her chief adversary Richard of York into a woman, we hope to discover a new dynamic in the conflict which surrounds these characters, both in the context of their familial relationships and in the politics of Henry VI. The effect of this concept is most prominent in the regendering of Richard of Gloucester (later Richard III), where the now female character is increasingly isolated by the masculine world of which she is part. Lines such as ‘I am like no brother’ gain new meaning, and the distinctive violence which is fuelled by nurture rather than nature.

Featuring male performers alongside women, therefore, was vital to making our exploration possible. An all-female company sends an important feminist message, but theatre is nothing without equality and equal opportunities. With any luck, once our work on Henry VI Part III is done, we will continue this working relationship with our new associate male artists, enabling the spread of The Barded Ladies’ ideals of inclusiveness and accessibility.

Alongside our work as theatre practitioners, we are both PhD researchers, and our approach to the work we do is very much informed by that. We think of our company as a band of players rather than ‘actors’, and the techniques we use centre around play. Over our years of working together, we have adapted practices used by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare’s Globe. Now, thanks to the new players we have on board, these practices are ever-changing, developing and growing.

As our work continues on Henry VI Part III, we are more and more excited by the thought of our upcoming production week at Windmill Hill City Farm. At the farm we have a new exciting space to work with, in rehearsals a new challenge every day, and a new company, who frequently alter our perceptions of what Shakespeare is and has the potential to be.

We cannot wait to be a part of this fantastic festival once again and see all the inspiring work it helps cultivate!