I’m a big fan of Mr William Shakespeare. I’ve got a well-thumbed copy of his complete works, a framed quote from Hamlet up in my bathroom and have even made it down to the Globe on a few occasions to see some of his wonderful soliloquies in action. From a feminist standpoint, I always stick up for the Bard, just because of the wonderful female characters he created for his time.
Surely Cleopatra must be one of the earliest pioneers of girl power? I’m not sure how many other sexually liberated, histrionic female monarchs were written about in the 17th century, anyway. Then there’s Shakespeare’s cross-dressing girls (Rosalinde in As You Like It and Viola in Twelfth Night), his witty women (Katherine in The Taming Of the Shrew and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing) and arguably his most important female role, the scheming femme fatale Lady Macbeth.
I remember reading Macbeth and being shocked by Lady M’s latent, violent sexuality. In a play full of males who seem to be either archaic or expendable, her dark mind and shrewd ambition make her stand out a mile from any other character. Bearing this in mind, how would it fare when performed by an all-female cast? I found out as I went to see Paula Benson’s woman-only Macbeth at the Camden Roundhouse.