“It’s behind you!” We meet the all-female cast of Battersea panto saying goodbye to outdated gender stereotypes
Nestled in a tiny theatre above a bustling pub in Battersea is an energy-filled, rip-roaring pantomime. But what makes it unique? It’s the only all-female cast in London.
I was greeted by two fiercely enthusiastic actresses who make up half of the cast of Cinderella and the Beanstalk written by The Sleeping Trees.
Both were keen to discuss how the use of an all-female cast could turn the often sexist tropes of pantomime on their head and issue a message of female empowerment whilst also maintaining the classic tropes that make pantomime so popular.
Anna Spearpoint, who plays Rumplestiltskin (amongst many other roles), said: “I think the traditional pantomime scene was lacking a bit of nuance and perspective. We’ve been able to reflect back on what we’ve come to expect of panto, and how that stands up in 2018. Before anybody did an all-female panto, it was always about people exploring different genders so it is interesting to explore what that means now.”
Louise Beresford, who plays Cinderella, admitted she had a funny relationship with panto before becoming involved in this production.
Louise said: “I think panto is great fun, it’s a part of our culture it’s a very English thing, but I do think it perpetuates a lot of old-school values and there are a lot of elements of sexism in there and stereotypical role positioning – for both men and women – which makes me shift in my seat.
“I’ve got two little sisters, and for them as young girls I always want to think how is this going to affect how you perceive yourself, this whole princess idea. For me it has been so much fun playing around with those stereotypes, and pulling them out and presenting them and showing how ridiculous and silly they are.”
Both cast members were keen to emphasise how important it is to show young girls that women can be silly, hilarious, and occasionally rude, on stage and that they don’t have to fit the ‘princess’ stereotype. The play wasn’t originally written to be performed by all women, rather it was a casting choice.
Anna said: “It’s really nice to be silly. It’s really important. We did a preview for a school group who were all five and six, and it was so wonderful to have a group of young girls watching women on the stage being really silly, and raucous and not thinking about being sexy or pretty or proper, and even being really grotesque at times. It’s an absolute joy to do and have audiences see, especially young girls .”
On stage at all times are Louise and Anna, as well as another actor and musician. They have to keep their energy high throughout the entire performance, and especially through the gruelling two-show days they face after Christmas.
But the women wouldn’t change it for the world. Throughout my time chatting with them, it is clear that there is nothing they would rather be doing and that they adore the job they have.
Anna put it perfectly to finish with: “It is the most fun job I have ever done.”
Cinderella and the Beanstalk is on at Theatre 503 in Battersea until 5th January.
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