A Woman, An Actress and A Wannabe Pioneer

By 3 February 2016Uncategorised


By Ellen Brammar, Middle Child
Ellen, left, in Apples (2012). 


It can sometimes feel quite unfair being a woman in this industry and from the very beginning of my career I felt that there were big differences between female and male actors. In my year at drama school the women significantly outnumbered the men: I should probably have realised then that this is something that will become an infuriating part of being an actress.

I have always felt a little dispensable, there really is nothing special about me and there are plenty of other actresses out there who are just as talented, quirkier, have just the right accent, have a natural ‘rawness’ and unfortunately, are just a little bit sexier than me. I should have been less idealistic as I stepped out of drama school, I should have noticed that the men in my year were already in a better position than me. The course leaders had already put their faith in them by dispensing four of the five DADA scholarships to men, which in my rather biased opinion, in most cases had less to do with talent and circumstance and more to do with gender.

I would possibly feel better if I knew that there was an abundance of fantastic female roles out there, but again in my opinion there isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, there are some wonderful plays that have complex and flawed women at their centres, I just want there to be more of them. Middle Child recently held an open discussion at our last Play in a Pub about the representation of women in theatre, including the amount of women we see on stage, the percentage of female writers and directors and the type of female characters that are portrayed. I was lucky enough to sit on the panel and came away with the overwhelming feeling that I was not alone in my opinions, people seemed pissed off and I felt rejuvenated to maybe make a difference in my own small way.

Since then I have attempted to push myself within my career, I have tried to be more outspoken, I want to challenge what I see as inherently wrong and strive to make a difference to how women feel working in this industry, as well as how we represent women on stage.  The more I read the more excited I get about what is happening, people seem to be questioning common place practices and demanding change. There seems to be an international shift in the way we regard women in theatre, and I have made a conscious decision to jump on the bandwagon.

Here in Hull, I feel a palpable excitement amongst my female peers, it feels like something thrilling is about to begin. A group of creative women that are ready and willing to become pioneers. I want to start seeing more women centre stage, I want to see more flawed female characters, I want us in this Northern city to challenge what is expected from women in theatre. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see female characters as emblematic of everyone, not just women; the ‘everyman’ character becoming the ‘every-person?’ I believe we have the perfect opportunity in 2017, the year of the UK City of Culture, to push the boundaries, to be brave and challenge preconceptions of women on stage. Women can be funny, nasty, complicated, flawed, intelligent, manipulative, political, vulnerable and representative of everyone, just like men.

I am excited for the next few years, personally I feel rejuvenated and I want to use this to really push myself within my career whilst also affecting change within this industry in my own small way. Of course it will always be frustrating being an actor, it’s a competitive career, and one where you constantly feel not quite good enough, but it’s also exciting and wonderful.

So I want to set us all a challenge for 2017 and beyond; let’s question the work we make, let’s be brave and bold, let’s make work that gives women an equal voice within this city. We can be the pioneers, we are the City of Culture after all, it makes perfect sense that it should begin with us. Let’s not sit back and expect London to start the change, next year eyes will be on us and we can’t waste that opportunity. I know it can sometimes feel overwhelming, and it is easy to see yourself as too small a part of this giant industry to make any impact but that is why we all need to do it together, from the smallest company to the largest. With change on the horizon, perhaps now, in this City of Culture, we can make being a woman in theatre a glorious thing.