Thursday, 1 November 2012

Agent 160 in Belfast: Panel & Workshop

On October 25th, the day after the shows ended,  Lunchbox & Agent160 held two events:
The first was a workshop exploring how to perform being a female playwright. The aim of the workshop was to unpack what we think, assume, hope and fear being a woman and a playwright is and creatively explore the tricky, fruitful and sometimes paradoxical relationship between the two. Agent160 Writers, Ioanna Anderson & Clare Duffy asked: 'If you are a woman who writes, how do you feel about being a 'female playwright'?

What the participants had to say about the events:
Inspired me to write more
I found both events very encouraging and inspirational as well as being realistic about the challenges that can be met in getting work produced. The workshop was very enjoyable. It didn't provide new methods of writing for those attending but I don't think that was the aim of the workshop. It did promote discussion in an open forum and encouraged sharing of experiences and writing, promoted confidence and networking within the group of female writers.
The panel was incredibly informative. Hanna kept a great focus and I was inspired by each of the speakers
I found the event very informative. Interesting to have heard from those involved in different aspects of theatre across the UK/Ireland.

Clare Duffy (Agent160)

Ioanna Anderson (Agent160)

Workshop participants Playwright Shannon Yee, Director Mary Lindsay, and screenwriters Christine Morrow & Elvina Porter

This was followed by a panel, chaired by Hanna Slattne of Tinderbox, Belfast, with the aim of discussing women in the Irish Theatrical Landscape.

The Panel members were:

Hanna Slattne, (Tinderbox, Belfast), Richard Lavery (Accidental Theatre, Belfast) Suzanne Bell (Royal Exchange, Manchester) Alice Coghlan (Wonderland Productions, Dublin) Andrea Montgomery (TerraNova, Belfast) Louise Stephens Alexander (Agent160) Aislinn Clarke (Wireless Mystery Theatre & Fickle Favours)
1. Does the 17% Figure applies to Northern Ireland: & Suzanne & Alice  how they are doing in their parts of the world?
2. Aislinn and Louise: setting up new companies focussing on female practitioners. What were the main reasons behind it? 
3. Richard and Andrea's experiences, both in setting up their own companies and how they work with women writers. 
4. Has the abundance of female theatre makers contributed to the healthy figure that we have? 
(i.e. Does the gender of the director make an impact? the gender of development teams? And from the writer's p.o.v. - Is there a pressure to write in a certain way, about certain issues, - Is there a female aesthetic? )
5. Winter is coming,( i.e. cuts) - how can we protect that figure? why is it so important to keep the figure up? 
Panel in full swing

Hanna Slattna very kindly offered to chair the panel: and started off by addressing the question of; is Northern Ireland the same as the rest of the UK? Do we only produce 17% of female authored work on our stages?
In fact , NI is doing well- A 50% commission & production rate of women's plays. However of Hanna's incoming scripts only 20% are from women. 
Suzanne told us that in the 1st Bruntwood – which worked on an anonymous submissions policy – the scripts were 80% male authored:. Now after pushing, it has risen to 50/50- The rise in female submissions is now reflected in winners as well.
Alice, working for the Abbey Theatre,in Dublin, stated that 23% of unsolicited scripts were from women and that 31.5 of new commissions in the abbey this year were female authored .However, she describes the abbey's programme jokingly as 'men, men, men and Marina Carr" Using information provided by the Irish Theatre institute, it would seem that of the new plays produced in 2010-211 (Both original & adapted) the figure stands as 29 % (However, this could be slightly inaccurate: no research of this kind has been undertaken to date in the republic.) 

Moving on to the rationale behind setting up Agent 160 , Louise said it had been as result of a combination of  things: the Vamps Vixens & Feminists conference at the Sphinx theatre in 2010 & the fact that Lisa Parry (Agent160 AD) was seeing some good women's work at the time. Just not enough of it.  She had then begun thinking about setting up a company of Female playwrights. Aislinn (Fickle Favours) after chatting to actress colleagues and seeing that in her own productions at Wireless Mystery theatre, there were not enough plays produced with challenging strong roles for women, including in the classical repertoire. She wanted to get away from the tendency for people to think of women's writings as a 'genre'- and to create a platform for just 'good theatre. ' She wanted to be able to include actresses and writers of all ages, using the Agent160 short Nancy as a great example of a strong piece both in writing terms & as a role for an older woman. 

Richard Lavery From Accidental Theatre said that when he first put a call out for scripts, just 10% were from women- but that in interestingly, he'd found an large increase of expression of interest from female directors, something that is reflected in their productions this year.

Hanna mentioned that to get their figures up, Tinderbox set out to address the gap 8 yrs ago-when she first joined the company- she had to form a strategy, one of which was creating projects to work with women. She said that she could not leave it to random chance: this was something that all companies would have to undertake to avoid.

Aislinn thinks the problem is deeper than that: why are young women not thinking 'I could be a playwright?' She thinks no one in schools/ thinks of playwrighting/directing as a career:  An audience member agreed, saying that there were not enough female dramatists on the school curriculum. Vittoria (Agent160) pointed out that in her research for the panel, she had noticed that Educational theatre companies in the republic of Ireland, only one had a female authored play in their repertoire, and when looking at companies doing classical plays there were none by women- understandably since it's not on the curriculum, but she wondered why someone like Aphra Benn wasn't ever mentioned at school. 

Andrea Montgomery talked about how studies of sociological/psychological analysis of gender and speech have shown a difference in the way that women put themselves and their work forward- that many women had a culture of 'I put me down, you pull me up' – Suzanne agreed, saying that it was perfectly reasonable for a man to come into a meeting saying 'this is a great script, - it's fantastic etc” whereas if a woman did the same, even other women would be taken aback.
Aislinn said she also found this as a female director: one was supposed to act in a certain way. Suzanne pointed out that female linguistic structure and male linguistic structure were distinctly different- something that Andrea backed up. With Terranova, she works with women in many different countries- She spoke about how important is to remember cultural differences affect women's voices also: working with women in Tehran, she found their voices and ideas very different than say somewhere like Hong Kong. 

Suzanne noted that while, 67% of audience are women- they expect male stories, and wanted to pose the question to the panel and audience: Why is there a lack of exploration of female sexuality on stage?
An audience member pointed out - women are punished for being sexual in plays. The panel thought that was no reason not to show it: Both Hanna-& Suzanne- emphasized that you should write what you want to write- Write passionately- not what you think a certain theatre wants, or doesn't want. Hanna mentions that she finds when it comes to sexuality , she sees that female writers censor themselves. Is it Cultural? The conversation came back to schools and kids- and what they see both at school & in society- &  to help change the perceptions we need to make sure that the younger generation don't just watch the same old dramas. Alice and Hanna have both done scriptwriting workshops with children: Alice said that if you get the kids around age 8-10 they are super confient- the seeds could be sown then. 

Andrea bought up what she sees as the main problem in NI: As a member of NITA (NI Theatre Association) she is struggling to communicate to politicians of benefits of theatre -it's seen as a hobby - theatre not regarded as 'professional' An audience member seconded that, recounted countless mentions of others to her work as 'her wee play”
Hanna pointed out that the press were not overly interested in theatre here: that that would have to be addressed to combat that issue.
Alice found that surprising, describing the audiences in Northern Ireland as much more engaged than in Dublin. From the outside it looks like a buzzing scene.
How do we keep the figure up at it's current level? Hanna suggested that it was the bigger funded companies responsibility to do so and set the standard for others to follow.
In conclusion:
Hanna says -stop being polite- do not censor yourself. Claire Duffy (A160) says- just be prepared to be slapped down in the process, but get up & keep going!
To which Hanna added- target the right company when sending your work! Andrea noted the importance of 'allies' in the theatre world- in Northern Ireland, the theatre network is very strong- so use it. Suzanne, agreed, adding that once you do have allies in the theatre industry they are very loyal, and tend to stay that way. 

So proud of our actors and directors, and thrilled with the response we had to the pieces: there's a 4 star review here:
We are also very grateful to have had support from The Belfast Festival at Queens, The Black Box, Belfast Film Festival, The British Council, and Belfast City Council and from the many people who contributed through Fundit as well as everyone who came down to the shows-  Thank You!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Agent 160 in Belfast: Rehearsal Photos

Only 8 days until we go up in Belfast,  so we thought we'd give you a little sneak peek at rehearsals. 

October 23rd & 24th, Black Box, Belfast, 8pm, £8 
Tickets are available here.

Aislinn Clarke, (Directing Red Shoes By Sarah Grochala,  Nancy by Lisa Parry & Pantomime Horse by Ioanna Anderson)  chats to Alana Henderson during a Rehearsal for Red Shoes.

 Charmaine McBride during a rehearsal for How Do You Sleep At Night?' By Clare Duffy

 In rehearsal for Red Shoes

 Amanda Doherty & Charmaine Mc Bride rehearsing ' How Do You Sleep At Night?'

Monnine Dargan (Director of  The Last Word by Vittoria Cafolla, Skin by Morna Pearson & How Do You Sleep At Night? by Clare Duffychats to Geoff Hatt  during a rehearsal of Skin.

  Amanda Doherty & Charmaine Mc Bride rehearsing ' How Do You Sleep At Night?

Geoff Hatt & Charmaine McBride rehearsing Morna Pearson's Skin

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Agent 160 in Belfast: The Plays

Belfast Agent, Vittoria Cafolla, writes: 

It's starting to get hectic! 
As well as chatting and planning with Lisa, Dan and Louise in England,  I've been spending a lot of time this week with Sarah & Pete from the Black Box, working on, amongst other things:  tech plans, prop lists, publicity, and confirming the rest of our panel.  There has been a lot of interest from the theatrical community here on what Agent 160 do, and are planning to do, and it does seem that people are excited about seeing the shows, attending our panel and the writing workshop with Ioanna & Clare. (Which is nearly full, by the way- sign up here, if you want to attend!)

The directors are also hard at work,  and actors are to-ing and fro-ing between them. (We have 6 actors for 10 roles) It's quite exciting to hear what Moninne & Aislinn are planning, and I can't wait to sit in on a couple of rehearsals.  I think the plays will have a very different feel from the productions that we saw in London, Cardiff & Glasgow- both because we are using Northern Irish actors and -obviously- as no two theatre directors are going to have the same take or reading of a play. On a personal note,  this will be the first time I've had a play directed by two different directors, with different actors-I can't wait to find out what it will be like!

Having seen some of the plays staged while I was in London, and experienced how the audience reacted to each, I am also really looking forward to seeing Northern Irish audiences will react to the great pieces that we are doing. 
I just wish we could have done all the shows from the launch. 

So without further ago, here's our selection of Agent160 Presents plays for the Belfast Festival at Queen's....

Ioanna Anderson – How To Be A Pantomine Horse
In an air accident, the normal rules of human behaviour are suspended; people behave in unexpected and sometimes unpredictable ways. In this darkly funny, surreal and moving two-hander, an air crash throws two women into an impromptu but vital partnership.

Vittoria Cafolla – The Last Word
Paedar and Phoebe are in Pompeii, but are the city's ruins the only ones they're exploring? And just how important is it to have the final say in an argument? All is not as it seems when both compete to have the last word.

Clare Duffy – How Do You Sleep At Night?
For three years, Abi has been protesting outside the home of a retired chief executive of a zombie bank. But today, at 4am, the executive’s insomniac wife comes to make Abi an offer.

Sarah Grochala - Red Shoes
And it don’t matter that I ain’t had no tummy tuck caesarean, no postnatal Pilates. Cos I’m thinking it don’t matter what you got, you got it, when you got shoes like that.
Kaz has found the answer to all her problems, a pair of shoes, a pair of red Christian Louboutin shoes. If she has those shoes, she knows she can win her ex, Darren, back. All she needs now is the money to buy them or the guts to steal them.
One night in London when everything goes crazy, she finally gets her chance.

Lisa Parry - Nancy
Nancy lives in Sussex – the rural bit, not Brighton – and is in financial straits. But it’s not just the bank she needs to keep from her door; it’s the rabbits and moles too. But what has this to do with the audience? And why is she on the Agent 160 tour?

Morna Pearson – Skin; or How To Disappear
Robert hasn't left his house since Helen Daniels from Neighbours died. Having pulled out every hair on his body, he has started peeling off all of his skin. His day is interrupted by a visit from an incapacity benefit assessor. Somebody's life is about to change.

If you are going to be in and around Belfast on the 23rd & 24th October, you can buy tickets here. 

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Agent 160 in Belfast: Casting

Amanda Doherty
Amanda recently graduated with a BA (Hons) Acting - Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.
A young actress who has already worked with some of Northern Ireland's best known companies: as Elsie in Collecting Cultures for Kabosh), Pat in Operation Blitzed for Big Telly, Martius in Titus Andronicus for Inside of Out, Emer in Cromwell’s Tour of Ireland for the London Irish Theatre. Market Seller in Romeo & Juliet for the Stuttgart Ballet and as Annie Wobbler for the Derry playhouse. She has also had roles in The Fall for BBC TV, Tire Na Mac Tire for RTE/TG4 and as Agnes in Agnes (UTV with Ambient Light Productions) 

 Susan Davey 

Susan Davey trained in ballet before undertaking training at the Gaiety School of Acting, Dublin. She was also a member of the Lyric Theatre’s Drama Studio Company where she played in A Vampire Story.
Most recently, Susan performed in Playboy of the Western World (Lyric Theatre Belfast). Other theatre credits include: Marianne Dreams and Babble (Replay Theatre Company), A Christmas Carol (Wireless Mystery Theatre), Operation Blitzed (Big Telly), Of Fallen Sock and Fear (Accidental Theatre) and TIE work for Tinderbox Theatre Company. She performed in the Black Box’s Lunchtime Theatre earlier in the year.
Film and TV credits include a lead role in Fr. Brendan Smyth: Betrayal Of Trust (BBC), A Belfast Story (JoltMe – independent American feature), Mime and Lighthouse Keepers (NI Screen / Stirling Productions).
This year, Susan has recorded ‘Eveline’ for a walking tour of James Joyce’s Dubliners (Wonderland Theatre Company) for Dublin’s One City One Book festival.

Alana Henderson

In the summer of 2007 Alana took on her first major acting role as ‘Caroline’ in the ground-breaking & IFTA Nominated Irish-language drama-series ‘Seacht’ commissioned by TG4 and ILBF, which ran into its fourth series. In 2010 Alana was cast in the Irish-language radio plays series 'Nora', written by Gearoid MacUnfraidh and directed by Brian O'Tiomain, in which she played the part of Jackie, a young Mother left distraught by her partner's decision to go on hunger-strike.
She is also an accomplished classical cellist and played first desk cello with The Ulster Youth Orchestra. She is passionate about traditional singing and have an extensive repertoire of songs in English, Irish and Scots’ Gaelic. A traditional-singer, she has performed at festivals in Ireland, England and Scotland. She also writes and performs her own contemporary material and most recently performed on BBC ALBA’s ‘Horo Gheallaidh’ Series which was recorded at Celtic Connection festival, Glasgow in January 2012.
Geoff Hatt
(Since marriage in 2010. Previously Geoff Gatt)

Since graduating with a BA in English and Drama joint honours degree from Queens University, Geoff Hatt has fast become a familiar face on the Belfast musical and acting circuits.

Recently he has been working with Wireless Mystery Theatre both on 'Litarary Lunchimes' at The Ulster Hall and War of the Worlds for the Young at Art Childrens festival 2012. He also worked with YAA in their Performances In Schools programme with the play, The Butterfly and Caterpillar . 'Down in the Garden' written & Devised by Geoff & Catherine Hatt for Sticky Fingers Children's Theatre Company was a educational show for young children, which toured North and Southern Ireland twice in 2010. He starred as Ernest Hemingway (and other characters) in 'The Men of The HOUR' from Jan 2009 -Jan2011, a show that played to packed house in Belfast and had 2 successful runs in the Edinburgh Fringe festival 2009, 2010 & also in Belfast's 2011 Out To Lunch festival. Geoff played a human Ukulele playing flea in 'The Flea Pit ' for Cahoots NI 2007 as part of Belfast Festival and worked again with Cahoots Ni in 'The Bumble Bee Orchestra'. 'Hippos in the shower' was a self penned, original musical, first staged June 2005 OMAC Belfast, (and which went on to sell out performances in Empire Music Hall 2005, Cathedral Quarter Festival 2006 and Successful run in Edinburgh Fringe 2008) Geoff is also a talented musician, having released his first album, 'Ten Year Road' in 2009 to critical acclaim from magazines such as Hotpress and is currently completing his 2nd album with support from the Arts Council of Nothern Ireland.

Charmaine Mc Bride
Most Recently: Kath in ‘Present Haunts’ Directed by Bill Taylor as part of the Lunchbox Theatre in the Black Box Belfast, Battle of the Books’ as part of Literary Belfast for Belfast City Council , Lucy in ‘The Ex-Files’ Directed by Mary Lindsay for Skewiff Theatre Company as part of the Pick n Mix festival at the MAC Belfast, 'Sitting up for Michael’ Directed by Helen Donnelly as part of Accidental Theatres Biscuit Tin Readings ‘Who is it that can tell me who I am?’ Written and directed by herself, for Culture Night Belfast. Also: Alice in ‘The Water Clock’ Directed by Jack Geary and Danielle Barios. QFT, Jill Hewitt in ‘No Hope Hear’ Directed by Kevin Murray: Feile an phobail, Miss Know in ‘Mastermind’ Directed by Richard Lavery for: Accidental Theatre. V-DAY campaign, ‘Memory, Monologue, a Rant or a Prayer’ at the Black Box, Belfast, ‘Inner Space’ - (devised movement piece) Directed by David Calvert: KIC theatre company , Susan in ‘Five Minutes Of Silence’ Directed by Rachel Donnelly, Patricia in ‘Sharla Evans’ – a reimagining of the play ‘Rum & Vodka' by Conor Macpherson directed by Patrick Hughes: She starred as Super Numery in West End production of ‘EVITA’ in the Opera House Belfast. She has also acted in several local short films.

Rachael McCabe

Recent acting Experience: Performance Poet, Bronte Homeland, European Heritage Open Day, Margaret/Friar “Much Ado About Nothing”, Ruff Theatre Co., Crescent Arts Theatre, “The Golden Point and Beyond” by Peter Morgan-Barnes, Ballymoney Borough Council, Actor/writer, “Whatever Happened to Those Who Can’t?” TWC, Belfast, “The Wireless Room”, Wireless Mystery Theatre, Writer/ Actor, “A Beginner’s Guide To David Lynch”, TWC, QFT, “Alf Elf”, Hansel and Gretel Tour, c21 Theatre Company, Writer/ Actor “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”, Those Who Can’t, Belfast, Deviser/Actor on“They Do It With Beards”, Those Who Can’t, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Actor/Deviser “Leave It Out!”, Replay Productions, Belfast, Head Chaperone, “Eight”, Casterton School, Cumbria, England, YMT:UK, “Banzai Chess” Devisor/Performer, Young At Art Festival, Writer/ Actor “They Do It With Beards, Those Who Can’t, Belfast, and as Facilitator/ Composer, for “Theatre In The Dark”, Big Telly Theatre Co., Portstewart.
Rachael also often works as a devisor & performer for the Beat Carnival, Belfast, as a Tutor, for Bruiser Theatre Company Summer Schools, Belfast and UU Coleraine, St Genevieve’s High School, as well as running Cross Community workshop days, with The Riverside theatre, University of Ulster, Coleraine, Glencairn and Frank Gillen centre youth groups, New Belfast Community Arts Initiative. Rachael hass also been working as an Arts facilitator since 2006, for (amongst others :Galaxy Drama Clubs, Shankill Nursery Project, New Belfast Community Arts Initiative and Young At Art, Grand Opera House Youth group and Opera Theatre Company.
She also holds a BA in English Language and Literature, from Oxford and a MA in English Literature, from The University of Sussex at Brighton.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Agent 160 in Belfast: Directors

Aislinn Clarke

Aislinn Clarke is a writer/director based in Belfast. She is the founder and Artistic Director of Northern Ireland's only audio theatre company Wireless Mystery Theatre and has also recently founded Fickle Favours, a platform company for female writers, actors, and directors in theatre. Aislinn also freelances as a writer, director, script editor, and filmmaker. She has directed a total of 15 short films, documentaries, and musical video inserts. Her work has been broadcast on BBC, UTV, and RTE. Aislinn's most recent film, The Lighthouse Keepers, was funded by NI Screen and produced by Stirling TV. It will be released later this month. She has also directed work for radio that has been broadcast on BBC Ulster, BBC Scotland, RTE, as well as on Radio stations in Leeds, Southampton, Nova Scotia, and Atlanta. Aislinn has directed extensively for the stage, working with pre-existing work as well as her own work, adaptations and new commissions. Her work has been on the main stages of Belfast's Grand Opera House, The Lyric Theatre, The Ulster Hall, as well as in arts centres, theatres, and festivals all across Ireland. Wireless Mystery Theatre have also had a 4* star run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and have performed by request at Stormont Parliament Buildings and with such writers as Carlo Gebler and Ciaran Carson. Aislinn also does the odd turn as an actress herself if the situation calls for it.

Moninne Dargan

Moninne Dargan is a co-founding member of Belfast’s respected, female led, skewiff theatre company. Moninne most recently directed 'Who Pulls the Strings?' a piece devised with a group of volunteer performers for Friends of the Earth on Culture Night, Belfast. She was one of the inaugural directors for Lunchbox Theatre Company, directing Myra Dryden's Out Of My Head, and previously directed skewiff’s production of Gary Owen's The Drowned World which the company took on tour. Moninne is a freelance workshop facilitator and freelance drama tutor; previous projects have included working in schools for Replay theatre company and with women’s and community groups. Moninne is also an accomplished actress and has acted in (amongst others) Vittoria Cafolla's The Ex Files (rehearsed reading MAC), Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, (Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival) Shannon Yee's Hatch, Cafolla's The Waiting Room, (Belfast Fringe) Eric Bogosian's Talk Radio, (Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival) David Robson's A Few Small Repairs, and Lee Blessing 's Eleemosynary, (Old Museum Arts Centre). She has a particular interest in the Michael Chekhov technique and continues to train with Jorg Andrees (Dublin and Berlin).

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Agent 160 in Belfast ...the story so far...

Vittoria Cafolla Writes:

I'm proud to be a part of Agent160. I feel there is a real need for this company's existence. (Why? see here) I have been talking a lot with theatre people over here, about the insanity that is the 17% figure. (In case this is your first time reading this blog- Only 17% of the work produced in the UK on our stages is by women. Crazy, especially since women make up over half of the theatre going population AND the population as a whole.)

Not only that, but there has also been much talk recently about this and in the US, people doing this:

It seems like there might be a bit of a revolution going on.

It feels like people are starting to notice.

Getting this show on the road has been, well interesting to say the least. We were lucky a while ago to get some funding from Belfast City Council. We have been welcomed by the Black Box, and given an amazing amount of in-kind help by them. Belfast Festival at Queen's gave us some money as well. In the meeting I had with the Festival they told me they are very excited by the companies ethos, the writers, the workshop and the panel we have set up, (By the way, Hanna from Tinderbox rocks)

We’ve loyal directors, stage hands & soundmen all on board for the love of the idea behind the company, and the great plays that they have to play with. Including work from Ioanna Anderson,Vittoria Cafolla, Clare Duffy, Sarah Grochala, Lisa Parry and Morna Pearson. We put out a casting call and had to add 3 hours of extra slots, as demand for auditions was so high.

And it came to me that we were very lucky to have so much support. I feel like this has been a long time coming, but that it's right. That our time is not only now, but that if we help make a dent in that 17% figure, it'll not only be for us, but for all the new female writers coming up.

We have been fund-raising here: At the moment, we are around £500 off our target, with less than a week to go.

Thank you so much to everyone who has added to the pot so far: some of you don't even live in Belfast, or will see the shows. It's incredible. Two of you are anonymous, again, thank you! Its hard to express how grateful we are. We are not quite there yet: we would love if you could support us with even a quid! If you do (I really hope that this doesn't sound patronizing)

I just hope that you realise, that when you donate, you are playing a role in helping us, as a company, to get that 17% figure up. And I'm hoping it gives you the same fuzzy glow and sense of pride, that it gives us.

Please, please, please help get us to Belfast.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


Agent 160 is presenting a selection of plays from the February launch show in association with The Black Box and Lunch Box Theatre as part of the 50th Belfast Festival at Queens. Details - including workshop details with Agent 160 writers and information regarding a panel discussion- are below. Click here to book.
Agent 160 Presents Agent 160
Tuesday 23rd and Wednesday 24th October 2012
At the Black Box Belfast
Written by
Ioanna Anderson, Vittoria Cafolla, Clare Duffy, Sarah Grochala, Lisa Parry & Morna Pearson.
7.30pm £8
How to perform being a female playwright.
This workshop will unpack what we think, assume, hope and fear being a woman and a playwright is and creatively explore the tricky, fruitful and sometimes paradoxical relationship between the two. We'll ask: 'If you are a woman who writes, how do you feel about being a 'female playwright'?
With Agent 160 Writers, Ioanna Anderson & Clare Duffy
Thursday 25th October 10-12pm Black Box- FREE- limited availability. Please contact to book your place
Female Writers in the Irish Theatrical Landscape

A Panel and Question and Answer session discussing the Irish theatrical landscape with regards to female writers. With Hanna Slattne (Tinderbox,Belfast) Suzanne Bell (The Royal Exchange,London) Richard Lavery (Accidental Theatre Company, Belfast) & more to be confirmed.
Thursday 25th October 1-2pm Black Box- FREE

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Writing anything we want

Hello everyone, it's Samantha Ellis here again, and this is about an event I did last week about women in theatre.

It was organised by The W Project, set up by Teo Connor and Loren Platt to celebrate and empower women in the creative industries—their wonderful blog is full of inspirational women. It was a post show event for Eugene O’Neill’s expressionist play The Hairy Ape at the Southwark Playhouse, and director Kate Budgen, filmmaker Elisha Smith-Leverock (who made the play’s excellent trailer) and I began by telling our stories of becoming and being women artists.

A couple of themes kept recurring. One was confidence, and whether women might be held back because (generalising wildly here) men tend to be more confident. I definitely have to steel myself to speak in workshops or rehearsals, to ask for what I want, to think of myself unapologetically as an artist, and (worst of all) to pitch. That’s one of the reasons I love being a founder member of Agent 160, where one of our core aims is to be mutually supportive, and where I feel part of a creative community.

We also talked about what women make art about—whether we are encouraged to make work from our own experience while men can write from outside theirs, whether our work is seen as marginal and subjective while men’s is universal and objective. The very first play I (co-)wrote, in a freshers’ festival at university, came about because two men said they needed a woman to “write the girls”. I owe them a massive debt for introducing me to theatre (if they hadn’t, I’d still be trying and failing to be Sylvia Plath) but I also wish I’d said “yes, but let’s all write all the characters".

Since then, my characters have included: a tree-sitter, thenovelist Joseph Roth, a fashion photographer puppet, an East Anglian wolf biologist, Gertrude Bell, a Plaistow boxer, a doubting rabbi, a Moldovan belly dancer, a grasping brothel madam, aninsomniac Shah.... I could go on. I have written about Iraqis, and Jews, and people with seizures, and women, and people who live in north London, and people who fancy the wrong kind of men, yes, so I have drawn on my own experience, but I poured just as much of myself into writing the insomniac Shah because that’s what writing is: an act of creative empathy.

When I told people I was doing an event on women and theatre after The Hairy Ape, they all asked why. The testosterone-fuelled play, with a mainly-male cast, and a key scene where they sweat it out in the hellish stokehole of a transatlantic liner, seemed an odd counterpart to an event about women. But as we sat on the stage and talked, it started to seem a really radical choice. If women can direct plays like this (and with the guts and energy Kate Budgen gave it) we must be getting somewhere.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Moving Forward

Lisa Parry writes: 
A thousand apologies for the blog silence. It's continued far longer than we anticipated. Our funding for the tour came from three different arts councils (England, Scotland, Wales) so the evaluation process has taken longer than it would usually take (it's still ongoing!) and we're doing lots of work in terms of cementing our company structures so that we have a solid model on which to build.

Our remit however remains the same as when we set out:
  • to help increase the amount of work by women on stage by producing the work of our members
  • to stage this work across the UK
  • to be a mutually supportive unit
Details of upcoming work from us will be announced very soon (it's all a bit hush hush at the moment!) so please don't forget about us in the meantime. What's been really lovely since the tour ended has been the contact we've had with people via twitter and personally too who saw the shows. We're really keen to build on what we achieved during the launch and to bring you work of the highest quality. So do bear with us - and watch this space! 

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

More Press and Interviews

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:

Apologies for the blog silence at present. We're all a bit snowed under with arts council evaluation forms and spreadsheets after the tour. But in case you didn't see our review in the Herald, you can read it here.

Also, our producer Dan Baker has been interviewed by Guardian Professionals. Click here to read.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Final Tour Blog

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:
This blog will be posted when I'm back home, after we've tweeted and blogged about the main points of the last Q&A session. I'm currently on a train south. Most of the company is now back home and hopefully catching up on sleep after a hectic week.

Our launch show has certainly been ambitious. During it, we have:
  • covered 1,000 miles
  • played three theatres
  • worked with seven actors, four directors and staged the work of twelve writers (using three different languages)
  • hosted three debates about female playwriting
  • sparked a national debate about gender thanks to the Guardian's coverage, whilst also engaging with hundreds of people via twitter, facebook and this blog
Agent 160 Theatre Company is now up and running. We're going to take a couple of weeks to reflect and then start making plans for the future. Do keep checking back for updates - the tour is over, but we're still here and will be blogging and tweeting away. Also, keep looking at our website for information on upcoming work from us and our writers.

From me and from the company - a big thank you for reading our blogs so far and for all your support. 

#a160qa (Glasgow)

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes: 
We live tweeted our first two question and answer sessions - one was in Cardiff and one was in London. We'd intended to do the same in Glasgow, however the theatre space there is underground and so, try as we might, we couldn't get a signal. Instead we tweeted the key points last night, but I thought some of our regular blog readers might also appreciate a summary.

I chaired the panel. Appearing on it were:
  • Nicola McCartney - playwright, director and dramaturg who has recently founded the MA in playwriting at Edinburgh University
  • Linda McLean - playwright and chair of Playwrights' Studio Scotland
  • Muriel Romanes - artistic director of Stellar Quines
I started off by asking the panel if they thought the 17 per cent figure (2010 figures state that across the UK just 17 per cent of produced plays are written by women) was an accurate reflection of the situation in Scotland. They all agreed it was. The debate then moved onto why this was the case.

The main areas covered were:
  • Are women being produced less because they write in a different structure? Is there a female aesthetic which is viewed less favourably?  
  • There is a gap between commissions and productions - is this because fewer women are returning their commissions? And if it is, why is this happening?
  • How the current economic climate was making theatres more wary of giving new commissions.
  • Whether the gender of the director makes an impact.
Have a look at #a160qa on twitter for more specific points. The debate continued last night and do feel free to still make a contribution. 

Friday, 24 February 2012


Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:
After a sell-out couple of nights at Theatre503, the company headed north to Scotland for the mini-tour's final leg - two nights at The Arches in Glasgow.

The theatre space inside The Arches, Glasgow

Some of the company stayed in Glasgow and some in Edinburgh. Our Scottish actors were happy to be home and our Scottish writers housed the English and Welsh actors, wowing them with hospitality and  amazing home-cooked food. As the pieces had already been twice staged before, our time at The Arches was mainly spent with the actors becoming familiar with the space. The 503 stage was much smaller and was carpeted during our run so it was quite cosy. The Arches' space was much deeper and even a little bleak. Some of the company preferred the 503 stage, some preferred the imaginative possibilities that a space like The Arches could offer. All of the company were grateful to our technical manager Dave Wylie for his magical ways with sound and light.

On a personal note, I was really happy to be bringing this work to Glasgow. I've had work staged before at Chapter and at Theatre503 and loved being back in both venues. However it's creatively exciting to be in a new space, with a completely new audience. It's challenging and risky and I really believe theatre should be about pushing boundaries - including personal ones. I spent two days with a real spring in my step and found the audience reaction on both nights to be really warm and generous.

After the second show, we hosted our final question and answer session. The space being underground meant live tweeting was impossible, but there's more on this discussion to follow.

The Debate - and #a160qa (London)

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes: 
I meant to write a blog about the London Q&A a couple of days ago, but the Glasgow shows took over. It was a truly brilliant session and has gone on to stimulate further debate thanks to twitter and a blog on the Guardian theatre site - click here to read. We live tweeted from the event so search for #a160qa to read the feed.

Theatre503 - the venue for our London shows and the Q&A

The panel was chaired by Guardian critic Lyn Gardner. I sat on it too and the other panelists were:

  • Lisa Cagnacci, director and writer
  • Flavia Fraser-Cannon, producer
  • Sam Hall, founder of the 17 per cent campaign
  • Amy Hodge, director
  • Sue Parrish, artistic director of Sphinx Theatre Company
We started by discussing whether things had improved - Sue Parrish recalled how she was once told that women couldn't write or make theatre because they were too busy being mothers; that women had achieved a lot but had to fight tooth and nail for it and that the fight needed to continue. How producers could help female writers was also discussed. Flavia said the staging of female work often countered preconceptions and Lisa Cagnacci said she believed women often had to fight against the idea of a female aesthetic - men may be freer to explore form. Sam Hall widened the debate - was it that perceptions of gender from a very early age was impacting on female writers in terms of confidence and ideas about their work? 

The discussion shifted onto what could be done to help improve the situation: Amy suggested strong networks needed to be created to help women support and encourage each other following on from initial development work. Over on twitter, the debate widened with tweets pointing out that older writers needed support too; a discussion over whether writers should change the gender of some characters; a debate over an anonymous submissions process and also whether the production gap was the same as the commission gap.

Do feel free to add your thoughts to the debate by tweeting @agent160theatre and using the #a160qa hashtag. The Scottish Q&A took place last night so there's another Q&A blog to follow!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Our First Review

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:
Guardian theatre critic Lyn Gardner was at Theatre503 for the second night of our shows. Her review, in case you haven't seen it, is here. She also chaired a wonderful Q&A session at the end of the show that I vow to blog about soon! Just up to our eyes in tech runs and train tickets at the moment!

We're all currently in Glasgow for our final leg. To book tickets for the Arches, click here.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

#agent160qa (Wales)

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:
As part of our tour, we decided to organise question and answer sessions after the second set of plays at each venue. We wanted to do this for a number of reasons: even though we decided not to be overtly political, there's no denying that our very existence is political. People would want to find out why we formed and maybe they'd want to explore that a bit. Also, we knew not everyone who would like to would be able to make it to the shows, but they still might want to ask questions. We wanted as many people as possible to feel involved and to live stream these debates on twitter (#agent160qa) seemed a good way to do this. In addition, we wanted to use these sessions to listen; to find out about thoughts and opinions in each of our three cities.

A different sort of Q&A: Abigail Graham, Jennifer Jackson and Vittoria Cafolla in rehearsal

Two of these sessions have already taken place. In Wales, I chaired the panel and its members were:
  • Branwen Davies, Agent 160 writer
  • Valmai Jones, writer, director and actress
  • Louise Stephens Alexander, Agent 160 dramaturg
  • Mared Swain, Agent 160 director and an associate director at Sherman Cymru
  • Roger Williams, playwright and Writers' Guild representative
The session in Wales was bilingual. What was really interesting was how it ended up moving away from gender and onto the ongoing problems experienced by playwrights such as how to sustain a career, as well as the differences in English language and Welsh language work, and also the reasons behind writing. At one point, a (brief!) heated debate broke out between Valmai Jones and Mared Swain as to the motivations behind writing a play. Valmai argued writers needed ongoing support and adequate pay to write properly. Mared argued that the reason for writing a play shouldn't be to pay the bills. Both arguments were disputed and agreed with over on twitter. 

Questions from the audience included whether the company felt the writers had been influenced by gender when writing their pieces; and we also got onto the issue of geography and how that determines audience reaction. Louise Stephens Alexander was curious as to how the Welsh audience had found the Scottish pieces and whether the comedy of some had been affected by accent or dialect. 

It was a really interesting session and if you were there, we hope you enjoyed it! 

London Rehearsal Photos

Here are some rehearsal photos taken in London by the wonderful Georgie M'Glug...

Matthew Bates and Jennifer Jackson rehearsing Morna Pearson's Skin; Or How To Disappear

Matthew Bates rehearsing Skin; Or How To Disappear

Jennifer Jackson rehearsing Sarah Grochala's Red Shoes

Matthew Bates

Jennifer Jackson and Matthew Bates rehearsing Vittoria Cafolla's The Last Word

Director Abigail Graham and Jennifer Jackson

The Tour

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:
This blog comes to you courtesy of the East Coast Mainline's wifi service. We've played Chapter in Cardiff, Theatre503 in London and the company is currently on its way to The Arches in Glasgow. Agent 160 Presents Agent 160 is in full steam and gearing up for leg three of the tour.

Actor Matthew Bates and writer Vittoria Cafolla rehearsing The Last Word

We've all been blown away by the support we've received so far - in terms of people coming, tweets and facebook messages. The work of our seven actors has been truly astounding and they're a real joy to watch. Audiences are leaving the theatre during the interval and after the show singing their praises, as well as praising the writers and also the different directors. Several people I don't know have enthusiastically ambushed me in the bar after the show at each venue and after each night. I really can't put into words how proud I am of everyone.

The Q&As have also been a success. I'm going to do another blog post about that (possibly on this train journey if the signal stays strong). After the Welsh and English one, I'm really looking forward to the Scottish one. The questions have been thought-provoking and we're really chuffed that we've been able to bring people who couldn't make the shows into the Q&As too, thanks to our live twitter feed.

If you're in or near Glasgow, then do come along to the final two shows at The Arches. Booking details are here.  It'd be fantastic to see you. We're all really looking forward to arriving in Scotland and bringing our work to another audience.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Directors' Biogs

Here are the biographies of our directors: 

As Director: The Censor (JMK Award Runner Up, Young Vic, Workshop Performance), Blue Heaven – Three Short Plays by Tennessee Williams (Finborough); Jack’s Quest (Company of Angels Theatre Maker Award, The Junction, Cambridge, Pleasance, London), The Boy and The Dog Who Walked to the Moon (Pleasance, Edinburgh), Lucy’s Brief Guide on How to be Human (Old Vic 24 Hour Plays) The Crucible (Newcastle University Best Director Award, St. Luke’s, Newcastle).

As Associate Director: Death and The Maiden (Harold Pinter Theatre, West End).

As Assistant Director: Glass Menagerie (Young Vic), Ruined (Almeida), Separate Tables (Chichester Festival Theatre), Enron (Minerva Chichester and Royal Court), Wallenstein (Minerva Chichester)

As Director in Community and Education settings: The Ward Project (Young Vic at Maudsley Hospital), Remember How to Fly (Young Vic Special Schools Festival), Soft Scoop (Clean Break), The Bridge Project (Almeida).

Kate is artistic director of Nutshell & programme leader for drama & theatre arts at Queen Margaret University.

Premieres for Nutshell: Allotment by Jules Horne ( Fringe First Winner 2011, CSPA award winner 2011), The Devil on Wheels by Jules Horne, (Scotland tour commissioned by the Scottish Forestry Commission), Stars by Anja Hilling, Crestfall by Mark O’Rowe (UK premiere  - “ The production is a masterpiece” Scotsman *****), Meat by Sarah Colvin & Play O’ The Wather  by Eddie Stiven. Other work includes: Through the Night & In The Shade written & performed by David Leddy  at the Arches & Tron Theatres Glasgow and A Small Family Business at Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

Kate has co-ordinated and directed on numerous script development, new writing and education projects for the Traverse, Edinburgh;  Citizens’ Theatre Glasgow and The Playwrights’ Studio Scotland. She is also on the judging panel for the Robert McLellan Award for plays in Scots.

Kate is currently developing the next part of the triliogy of plays she is making with Jules Horne which will premiere at  the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe at Assembly.

Catherine is a freelance theatre director from Cardiff. Between 2009 - 2011, she was a founding member and creative associate of National Theatre Wales, where she directed the 5th production in the company's inaugural year, The Beach. She also directed The Assembly, a participatory programme for artists and communities to debate and respond to local issues and ran the New Critics scheme to train arts journalists in Wales.  Recently, Catherine returned to National Theatre Wales as Community Promoter for the national tour of The Village Social where she also directed 16 community choruses. Catherine has directed new work for theatres and companies including Radio Wales, Unity Theatre Liverpool, Oldham Coliseum, Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, Trafalgar Studios, Contact Manchester, People Show, Dende Collective, Theatre 503, The Finborough, Tara Arts, Haddo House Opera, Baron's Court Theatre and the Octagon Theatre Bolton, where she was also Resident Assistant Director. Catherine is currently a WalesLab supported artist. She trained on the MFA Theatre Directing at Birkbeck and has a degree in American Studies from Nottingham University. 

Mared Swain is currently Welsh language associate director at Sherman Cymru.

She is also co-producer of Cardiff-based new writing company Dirty Protest Theatre, and directs their regular shorts nights. She has also became a mother last summer and is very glad to be involved in this exciting project with Agent 160.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

More Press

Here's one of our directors - Catherine Paskell - talking to the Western Mail about Agent 160:

And our artistic director and dramaturg are in the Herald too! Click here to read.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:
We've all been quite busy drumming up support for the shows over the past week. One of our directors, Catherine Paskell, talked about Agent 160 in the Western Mail and a few of us have been doing interviews with online and print media.

Here's a link to BitchBuzz magazine's article about Agent 160.

Casting News 3

And here are our Scottish actors:

Gowan Calder:

Gowan Calder is an actress and writer based in Scotland. Over the years she has performed in theatre, radio, film and TV. She has been a visiting lecturer in playwriting at Queen Margaret University and a writer-in-residence at HMP Glenochil. She has worked as an actor for the past two years with Ace Productions (Finland) and will be reprising her role as The Wife in Death of a Theatre Critic by Joachim Groth with them at The Pleasance, London, in May.  

Nicola Jo Cully:

Nicola Jo Cully trained at Queen Margaret University College.

Theatre includes: Too Many Penguins? (Frozen Charlotte Productions/Macrobert),  Allotment (Nutshell/Assembly), The Dark Things (Traverse), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Northampton Royal and Derngate/Assembly), Sunshine on Leith (Dundee Rep), The Wasp Factory (Cumbernauld Theatre/Tron), Translations (Arches Theatre Company), The Journey of Jeannie Deans (Rowantree), My Dark Sky (Reeling and Writhing), Sinbad (Team Entertainments/Eden Court), 3 For 2 (P and F Productions), Tenko! (Random Act), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh), Blude Red - The Musical (Cutting Edge).

Film and Television Includes: The Pursuit (Pursuit/ Nisha Parti Productions), Sweetheart (Digicult), Casualty (BBC), The Space Between (Lyre Productions), Tough (Napier Screen Academy/Blue Iris Films), Little Red Hoodie (Imagine Films), Nowhere, No One (Marquisde Ltd), Taggart - Law, Grass (SMG Productions), Retribution (Roaring Fire Films) Solid Air (Elemental Films), Witchcraze (Blast! Films Ltd), The Charm (Tim Fitzpatrick Productions).

Radio Includes: Desperate Measures, Striptease (BBC Radio 4), Secrets, Scottish Shorts - Matryoshka (BBC Radio Scotland).

Nicola can also be heard on the cast recording for Sunshine on Leith, the musical.