As we enter day six of Happy international Women’s Bonanza...wait, what? It's only a day? Oh...OK. Anyway, we thought we might honour the 24 hours set aside for the outpouring of gratitude and instagram posts and hashtags such an event inspires, by appreciating how far we’ve come and confronting what we still need to do. So put down your bunting and ‘I Heart Women Today’ posters and let’s crack on shall we? (sarcastic? Us? Noooo….) we’re here to discuss one of the last taboos in theatre – nudity. Hold on to your drawers. (Or don’t. It’s a free country and also it flies in the face of this post, but we are all about your choice)
OK yes, we are being sarcastic, but for comic effect you see – of course it’s great to have the country simultaneously fall over each other to cry the virtues of Woman: mother, sister, partner, wife…but what if that was everyday? Ah. The truth is we still have a long way to go. The war is not over – and the battleground is our bodies. In the years since censorship in the theatre was lifted, we’ve been, um, treated to many an arresting visual image – Edward Bond’s Saved featuring a notably disturbing and brave ending sequence in the 60s- censorship was only unofficially placed in 1968 - violence, the rise of immersive theatre, course language, all that good stuff - but this has also featured the human body.
You can’t post a nipple on instagram. On a woman. On a man it’s perfectly fine – you get multiple posts of glossy black and white shoots you could pick up from the newsagent shelf of the male torso in all it’s lightly dusted glory. When Daniel Radcliffe played the title role in Equus in 2007 there was many a salacious column inch dedicated to eye witness accounts- treating us, forgive us - but kind of like children.
“And then what happened?’
“He got his…thing out!”
We all have a body. We all make use of a body. So why not put it on the stage?
Battleground. Remember that?
Back in 2012 Sherlock actress Louise Brealey played Helen of Troy in a production of the Trojan Women, appearing onstage nude. Again, more comment from the papers, but a little less salacious this time: a taste of that tangy flavour of…was it, disapproval? She defended herself on twitter and wrote in a paper herself of how freeing it was, how confidence making, how real. And fantastic, we applaud her – for doing her job. That’s what was required of the role, and the director’s vision – she agreed, and she did it. For art and for the role she was playing. The comment was for….?
What we’re getting at here- the female body is so sexualized that a social media company views the human nipple not as a means by which to feed babies, but something to be censored, deemed inappropriate and just when we start to make headway, sit around the table – politics bashes down the door and we had all better take a seat. When Emma Watson posed for Vanity Fair just this week wearing a revealing top, the internet and it’s top agent Piers Morgan came for her as an actress, a role model, a feminist and a woman. When the rules are changing for everyone every day, what did we need? A man to gently face us in the right direction and point, with a saccharine smile to a handwritten sign that says “Feminism. 500 miles this way.” Sigh. Wouldn’t it be easier if nobody got naked at all, Bazzers? We went back to the Victorian times, no sex please we’re British, what hippy nonsense? Well, no. Because to Baz, theatre is challenging, difficult, confrontational, and ultimately about life. We have no interest in titillating audiences, and it’s true, no project of ours since we launched has featured any nudity- some underwear perhaps, but not to seem edgy. It’s quite difficult to make plain Y-Fronts look controversial, believe us– but being the free-thinking and brave Baz Broads we are, we aren’t ruling it out – just not for novelty’s sake, and not for the clicks. We stand by every creative decision we’ve made: from switching gender roles, confronting and visualizing disturbing themes, even throwing our audiences into total darkness - If we feel it suits our production and our vision then we own it.
So in conclusion your honour – we, women didn’t do it. The crimes against female representation has made the body a no-go zone. It has been compromised by the male gaze, the fashion dollar, the celebrity culture and the glossy magazine. We stand accused of being a target market your honour, where we lose out, giving a pound of flesh with no recompense.If and when we decide to feature any nudity of any gender - it will be with our aims and manifesto in mind - no red tape, no shock value and no publicity. Wish us luck.
Sigh. Anyway. What’s on instagram?
We joke. There are plenty of women, both in the arts and otherwise that are waking up to these disparities and doing excellent work. As we mentioned before, the highly attended Women’s March earlier this year brought the equal support of men and women. And even the most tepid and infuriating of comments under a video with a sensational headline are at least evenly spread with some level-headedness. Who knows? Maybe the wind’s about to change, and the real censorship can be lifted.
Hashtag boobs. If you’re comfortable with it.