Canberra. Monaco. These are not two capital cities that usually have a lot in common. But they do now because Canberra’s own Pigeonhole Theatre has been chosen to perform at the 16th Mondial du Théâtre, the World Festival of Theatre, in Monaco, August 2017.
Pigeonhole Theatre was started in 2015 by Jordan Best, Liz Bradley and Karen Vickery to create more powerful roles for Canberra women.
Well, most plays are written for strong male parts rather than female ones, but Canberra has traditionally had a much stronger talent pool of women thespians. According to Jordan, it was always a struggle to find enough male actors to fill roles and some of the supporting roles had to be rejigged to allow more women. When she interviewed for a cast of women to perform in Steel Magnolias in 2014 for example, 70 highly talented women actors auditioned. So she thought, why not create a theatre company that focused more on women?
To be clear, while it is committed to providing more roles for women, Pigeonhole Theatre is not just about women. Its performances do have men in them (e.g. the upcoming production of the Australian iconic play Summer of the 17th Doll). But the first performance staged by Pigeonhole Theatre, Playhouse Creatures by April de Angelis, featured an all-woman cast. “I’m very much a feminist,” said Jordan. “I believe that if women are ever going to be equal, then we need to be mindful of making choices that ensure women are getting a go.”
Playhouse Creatures debuted at The Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre (the Q), and Jordan notes the strong support of Program Manager Stephen Pike for the fledging theatre. Playhouse Creatures is about 5 actresses in the reign of Charles II, the monarch who decreed that men were no longer to play women’s roles, and for the first time women were allowed to take the stage. Because Canberra is small population wise, Jordan said it is difficult to field large audiences for the theatre. Canberra has a rich performing scene, but most artists work for no money or very little money, so Canberra traditionally had a healthy amateur market and only a small professional one. (Pigeonhole Theatre is committed to paying its staff, which according to Jordan is “why we are skint”).
Despite the smaller population base, Jordan says that Canberra is hugely vibrant and it is supportive of the theatre theme. Canberrans want to see shows that are not just those from Sydney, and they are willing to support that, albeit in smaller numbers.
A European lady was in the audience during one of the performances of the Playhouse Creatures at the Q Theatre. Impressed with the performance, she suggested Pigeonhole Theatre apply for the Mondial du Théâtre, which is a showcase of Independent theatre performances held every four years involving eight days of performances. The deadline had already passed. She encouraged Pigeonhole Theatre to apply anyway.
“I didn’t think we had much of a chance,” said Jordan. “When I received the email saying we were in, I scared the cr@p out of my husband by swearing so loud.”
Pigeonhole Theatre will perform Playhouse Creatures at the Princess Grace Theatre in Monaco for two performances in August. It will also participate in a Q and A session. Before heading off to Monaco, Pigeonhole Theatre will perform at the Playhouse at the Canberra Theatre Centre in a series of shows that Jordan said were even more exciting for her than Monaco. Tentative dates for the Canberra Theatre Centre performances are in August. Pigeonhole Theatre welcomes tax-deductible donations to help it get to Monaco to perform.
Good luck to Pigeonhole Theatre and we are sure you will do Canberra proud in Monaco.
Do you enjoy going to the theatre? What do you think of the local theatrical scene?