We always thrilled to welcome the lovely Charlie Cochrane to Sinfully. Today she has popped in to celebrate the release of In The Spotlight and share her thoughts on Gender and the theatre.
Gender and the theatre – some thoughts
When you go and see a play, I guess you expect the male parts to be played by men and the female parts by women. We all know it wasn’t always so, the theatre being for many years an all male affair. Shakespeare himself makes many references in his plays to the fact boy/men actors will play his heroines. In fact, some of the jokes – like Rosalind’s epilogue to “As You Like It” – aren’t funny unless a man dressed as a woman is saying them. And the Bard likes to take advantage of that crossing gender by having his boys dressing as girls dressing as boys again, for example Viola pretending to be Cesario in Twelfth Night.
This tradition has been revived in recent years, with all male versions of As You Like It (with the wonderful Ronald Pickup as Rosalind), Macbeth, etc. The tradition has also been turned on its head, with female actors taking on the role of Hamlet. If male actors can portray a Lady Macbeth who is both deeply feminine and incredibly dangerous, then why can’t a woman depict the indecision of the Prince of Denmark?
Cross-dressing and “breeches” roles are a staple of pantomime, that uniquely British tradition which seems to defy logical explanation and has to be embraced and enjoyed for the lunacy it is. The “dame” (Jack’s mother, the ugly sister, the nurse) is always played by a man – there is a theory that dates back to the days of monks acting out bible stories, and Noah’s wife being portrayed as a harridan. The “principal boy” (Prince Charming, Jack, Dick Whittington) is often played by an attractive young woman with legs up to her armpits. Children, who get taken to panto from a young age, have no problems with this, by the way, even when a female Cinderella is dancing with a love interest who is the same gender as her.
There’s also a noble tradition of men playing women when there is no alternative available. Concert parties existed in WWII and WWI (remember Hugh Laurie in Blackadder?) and maybe they go back as far as war itself does. Some of these chaps ere real lookers. According to “When this Bloody War is Over”, “...a lot of those young British officers wanted to make a date with Marjorie (from The Dumbells). She was so good that they couldn’t be convinced she was a female impersonator.” So popular were some of these “gals” that they were literally kidnapped before being reassigned to the regiment who wanted them for their own concert troupe. The 51st division acquired a soldier called Connel in this way, made him one of their gunners and benefited from his performances as Isabelle de Hotstuff. And as with the children at the pantomime, the armed forces didn’t seem to have any issues with men in drag.
Producers are often looking at ways to provide theatre goers with new experiences and new insights into familiar plays. Hearing a song addressed to a man sung by a man gives a particular frisson that’s lacking when a woman sings it. Similarly, a female Prince wooing Cinderella adds an innocence and element of wonder to the production. I propose a standing ovation in honour of going against the gender grain!
In The Spotlight
Published ~ 18th March 2017
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
In the Spotlight: Two stories by Charlie Cochrane
All That Jazz
Francis Yardley may be the high kicking star of an all-male version of Chicago, but bitter, and on the booze after the breakdown of a relationship, he thinks that the chance for true love has passed him by. A handsome, shy rugby player called Tommy seems to be the answer to his problems, but Tommy doesn't like the lipstick and lace. Can they find a way forward and is there still a chance for happiness "nowadays"?
If Music Be
Rick Cowley finds himself taking up am-dram once more, thinking it’ll help him get over the death of his partner. He’d never anticipated it would mean an encounter with an old flame and the sort of emotional complications the Bard would have revelled in. Still, old Will had the right word for every situation, didn’t he?
Available on Kindle Unlimited
Meet Charlie Cochrane
Because Charlie Cochrane couldn't be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her mystery novels include the Edwardian era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw Mysteries. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Riptide, Lethe and Bold Strokes, among others.
A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at literary festivals and at reader and author conferences with The Deadly Dames.