Taking the Stage - Women in the Performing Arts

This inspirational event has been organised by Rosemary Hill, Artistic Director of local and professional theatre company ‘The Play’s The Thing’; and funded by Milton Keynes Community Foundation and Arts Council England.

Over the three days audience members can see a brand new play by Julia Pascal (playwright and the first female director at The National Theatre); join the discussion with local and national female  industry professionals in a series of focussed panel sessions; witness ‘scratch’ pieces from emerging female talent, plus a newly devised piece of theatre by young people from Milton Keynes alongside Haste Theatre Company.

There will also be a keynote, comic sketches and a response to Paula Rego.

Rosemary says: “This platform enables those with a passion for the industry to be inspired by the work of the new and more experienced playwrights and directors; while getting a real insight into the industry via the important panel discussions.

“This is our chance to celebrate all the great women in theatre, who inspire, mentor, show strength, creativity and passion in their role within our great industry. It also gives us the opportunity to show our commitment to continually push the boundaries for women in the arts for a more equal balance; and to kick start a fair future for the next generation.”


Thursday 12th September
Keynote19:00Carly Halse

Play19:30‘Three Sisters’

A new play by Julia Pascal, commissioned by The Play’s The Thing Theatre Company
£12Buy Now
Friday 13th September
Panel/Discussion11:00 - 12:00How are women represented and paid in the industry?

Chair: Maureen Beattie ( President of Equity)

Panel Members:
Polly Kemp (actor and co-founder of ERA 50/50 – Equal Rights for Actresses)
Julia Pascal (playwright and the first female director at The National Theatre)
Urja Desai Thakore (one of the UK’s leading kathak dancers)
£5Buy Now
Response12:00 - 12:30Anna Berry - From Rego To Where?

Anna Berry uses MK Gallery’s Paula Rego exhibition as a jumping-off point to share her indulgent musings about our social climate, our divided politics, what kind of feminism is the wrong kind of feminism, how to navigate a course between ideology and reality, and probably a lot of wild conjecture about a bunch of other stuff too. She has no real answers, but if you’d like to heckle, or just eat crisps loudly, please join her.
Scratch Piece13:00 - 14:00‘Dirty Laundry’ by Wallis Hamilton-Felton£7Buy Now
Panel/Discussion14:00 - 15:00How are career paths affected particularly for older women? Are they invisible?

Professor Anna Furse (Goldsmiths, University of London).

Panel members:
Sue Parrish (Artists Director and Producer at Sphinx Theatre)
Rosemary Hill (Artistic Director The Play’s The Thing)
Sarah Wanendeya (actor)
£5Buy Now
Panel/Discussion15:30 - 16:30How far have we come in terms of accessibility for gender, race and disability?

Chloe Todd Fordham (playwright and winner of Bruntwood Prize Judges Award)

Panel members:
Jenny Sealey (CEO Graeae Theatre Company)
Shobu Kapoor (actor Eastenders and Bend it Like Beckham)
Urielle Klein-Mekongo (playwright)
£5Buy Now
Scratch Piece17:00 - 17:45‘Becoming the Invisible Woman’ by Sarah Wanendeya£7Buy Now
Film Screening19:00 - 22:00Cameraperson

Programmed as part of Taking the Stage, Cameraperson is a documentary bringing that brings together decades of footage by filmmaker Kirsten Johnson.

Exposing her role behind the camera, Kirsten Johnson reaches into the vast trove of footage she has shot over decades around the world. What emerges is a visually bold memoir and a revelatory interrogation of the power of the camera.
£8.50 / £7.50Buy Now
Saturday 14th September
New Voices11:30 - 12:00Youth Performance “If I Ruled the World..... I would”. Young people working on a new piece with Haste Theatre Company£7Buy Now
Panel/Discussion12:00 - 12:30MK Theatre Young People Discussion

Panel/Discussion12:00 - 13:00Technology- how have women harnessed technology? How are women working in technical fields treated?

Caroline Devine (Sound artist and composer. Work includes City of Things which was part of The Lie of the Land exhibition at MK Gallery)

Panel members:
Samantha McNern (Lighting Designer for Theatre and Film)
Jo Mcllwaine (Sound Engineer)
Jane Sanger (Film Director)
£5Buy Now
Comedy Sketches12:30 - 16:30Sarah Dyas (actor and stand up comedian)Free
Scratch Piece13:00 - 14:00‘Untitled’ - A newly devised piece from renowned theatre company Haste£7Buy Now
Panel/Discussion13:15 - 14:15Mental health – how are creativity and mental health connected?

Rosemary Hill (Artistic Director at The Play’s The Thing Theatre Company)

Panel members:
Roshmi Lovatt (Integrative Arts Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor)
Anna Berry (artist)
Francis Grin (playwright)
£5Buy Now
New Voices Workshop14:30 - 16:00Create and Play - A skills and devising workshop for young people with Haste TheatreFreeBuy Now
Scratch Piece17:00 - 17:30‘Tapestry’ by Chloe Todd-Fordham£7Buy Now
Scratch Piece17:45 - 18:30‘The Great Escape’ by Shobu Kapoor£7Buy Now
Panel/Discussion18:30 - 19:30Parents and carers – how can we juggle being parents and carers with a career in the performing arts?

Courtney Johnson (Creative Producer at Carbon Theatre)

Panel members:
Jo Blake Cave (story teller)
Tina Hofman (theatre-maker, director and producer)
Rhiannon Meades (actor and director)
£5Buy Now
Play20:00‘Three Sisters’

A new play by Julia Pascal, commissioned by The Play’s The Thing Theatre Company.
£12Buy Now


Carly Halse

Carly trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and has a passion for devised theatre and new writing. She has also worked extensively in the performance art world, most recently with Ragnar Kjartansson in his award-winning exhibition at the Barbican. Carly is additionally a voiceover artist, drama facilitator and director.

Theatre credits include: The Wind in the Willows (Brilliant Theatre Arts); Austerity (The Play’s The Thing); Presto and Clown (Sparky Buddy); One Act Play Festival (The Play’s The Thing); Bare Essentials (Encompass Productions); Nora in A Doll’s House (Pepper’s Ghost); Little Red in Into the Woods (Advance)

Main Play

“Three Sisters” by Julia Pascal

They say that in the last moments all your life flashes before you.
Edith, Isabel and Pearl are three sisters. Their parents fled anti-semitism in Romania for a new life in Manchester in 1908.

These daughters of immigrants reflect the twentieth and 21st centuries from a British and American perspective.

Edith becomes the army’s first munitions officer. Pearl marries a G.I. Isabel’s ambition is to become a doctor’s wife. At the end of their lives each woman remembers key moments of her existence from the erotic to the political.

Julia Pascal

Julia Pascal PhD is a playwright, theatre director and scholar. A graduate of the University of London and the University of York, she is a Research Fellow at King’s College, London.

Her dramas are published by Oberon Books and her plays have been performed in Europe and the USA.

Currently she is writing a new play about Hannah Arendt, Charlotte Salomon and Eva Daube, all of whom were incarcerated in Gurs, 1940.

Rosemary Hill – Director

Rosemary first worked as an English and Drama teacher and then trained as an actor at the Drama Studio , London. She worked briefly on the London fringe before accepting a job at the BBC as a director and producer where she worked for twelve wonderful years in radio and TV and in both drama and documentary. Her work took her all over the world, often working in challenging environments making programmes about controversial issues such as FGM, HIV and motherhood, maternal health ,women’s rights and girls’ education in developing countries. She went freelance in 1999 and continues to work in the media where she has produced award winning programmes for BBC World Service and BBC Education. She has also made several short films. Her first love though is the theatre and she founded The Play’s The Thing Theatre Company in 2008. Rosemary has wide experience in directing ranging from Shakespeare, Ibsen and Chekov to more modern classics such as “Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh and of course plays by remarkable women playwrights such as Bryony Lavery, Caryl Churchill and Timberlake Wertenbaker. She has also directed new work and is passionate about creating more opportunities for women playwrights, directors and actors. Rosemary is also very interested in mental health and last year she qualified as a psychotherapeutic counsellor after three years of training. She now works for Mind and YiS ( Youth Counselling) part time and has a private practice. Rosemary is a member of Stage Directors UK and Equity.

Scratch Piece 1

“Dirty Laundry” by Wallis Hamilton Felton

“But what if it’s wrong, Father? What if it’s all…wrong?”
One woman. One confession box. A lifetime of untold truths.

Follow No Name as she recounts her harrowing experiences whilst in the 'care' of a Magdalene Laundry. After having her youth cut short, she is forced to endure immeasurable physical and emotional hardship in order to survive. But as she faces one impossible choice after another, she carves a path for herself that no one, least of all herself, expected.

Audience members should be advised that Dirty Laundry contains themes that may be upsetting to some viewers, including sexual assault and violence.

Wallis Hamilton Felton

Wallis Hamilton p is a London based Irish actor. Wallis trained at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, where she studied Musical Theatre.

Theatre credits include; Em in Dark Arts at the King’s Head Theatre, Deb in Ordinary Days at the Soho Theatre, Jack and the Beanstalk with West End In Schools, Laura Dekker in Maidentrip at the Karamel Club and Anne in Anne of Green Gables at the Unicorn Theatre. TV credits; The All Ireland Talent Show and Vikings. Wallis debuted her first self-written play, Dirty Laundry, at the Tristan Bates Theatre in 2018.

Jesica Reed - Director

Jessica Reed is a professional director and theatre maker. Specialising in physical and site-specific theatre, she is passionate about more experimental styles of performance.

Prior to this, she worked as a performer, with theatre credits including work at Theatre N16, the Bikeshed Theatre and at various site-specific venues.

Training includes the University of Exeter and The Actors Class.

Scratch Piece 2

“Becoming the Invisible Woman” by Sarah Wanendeya

A woman “awakens” to find herself middle aged, stuck in a rut and confused. A burgeoning sense of invisibility leads her to question her place and relevance in this youth- centric society.

A chorus of middle aged women serve as both provocateurs and guides as they prompt her to re –assess her youth in order to explore her future.

Sarah Wanendeya

After years of involvement in community & fringe theatre, Sarah finally plucked up the courage to apply for drama school in 2017 at the age of 47! This play is an autobiographical piece which examines her experience of motherhood, ageing & the lure of paths not yet taken.

Theatre includes: Pat in Your Way or Mine (Theatre 503); The Woman in Becoming the Invisible Woman (Tristan Bates); Mrs Arbuthnot in A Woman of No Importance (London Theatre); Paulina in The Seagull (London Theatre); Multi-role in The Laramie Project; Sofia Fuentes in Widows; Barbara in Knot of the Heart; Mary in The Passion & The Christmas Mysteries (small London tour); Duchess Ferdinand in As You Like It; Drunken Ale Woman in The Harrowing of Hell (small London tour); Megan in Parlour Games (Bridewell Theatre); Kitty Lashbrooke in Murder Me Too (Site Specific);

Short Film/TV: Written in Blood Promo (AMC Network); Angela – In Transition; Alice – Home for Christmas.

Pollyanna Newcombe - Director

Pollyanna is a fierce believer in the importance of the arts within the wider social and economic agenda; she seeks to utilise theatre’s platform to interrogate and illuminate the world we find ourselves in. Pollyanna trained on the MA Theatre Directing programme at Mountview and was recently long listed for the Peter Hall Emerging Artists Fellowship 2018.

Recent directing credits include: Harper Regan (The Tabard), Your Way or Mine (Theatre 503), A Sticky Season (Tristan Bates and Drayton Arms), Specky Ginger C*nt (Katzpace); She’s Fit, Just Kiss Her (Southwark Playhouse, Large); Homo Superior (The Karamel Club); and Leave The Tape Running (Radio Play).

Recent assistant directing credits include: Diamond (dir. Jane Moriarty at the Bush and The Underbelly); For King and Country (dir. Paul Tomlinson at The Southwark Playhouse, Large). Pollyanna attended the University of Oxford, graduating 2012, where she read Economics & Management.

Scratch Piece 3

“Untitled” - Haste Theatre Company

Through lies, masquerades, unmasking truths, desertion, enlistment, resilience, ethic blows, moral bruises and a firm grasp on who they were...or needed to be, these women proved the world and themselves what it takes to draw your own path through life. Multi-award winning physical theatre company Haste Theatre presents a celebration of women and of whatever broad road or dark alley life decides to lure you in. This is a scratch performance of a new work in development - so newly minted an idea that we don't even have a name for the show yet. Witness the raw creative energy and delicate play of performance scratched and honed before your very eyes.

Youth “scratch” piece devised with Haste Theatre Company

“If I Ran The World”

If I ran the world things would be different… If we ran the world things would go like this…

Looking at where we are now, can we predict where we will be in 10, 20, 30 years? It could be a dark thought, or it could be outrageous joy, excitement and intrigue! Imaginations run wild and a new world is borne as this Youth Theatre group present a dynamic, multidisciplinary, celebration of their imaginations – a physical theatre show exploring what the world would be if they ran the show. Working in collaboration with multi-award winning physical theatre company Haste, this new devised show presents the delights of young creative minds and splurges it on the stage for all to enjoy and contemplate.

Haste Theatre Company

Haste Theatre was founded in 2013 after meeting on an MA in Physical Theatre. A unified force of 5 women, we make new and devised work that sits in the uncomfortable place between laughter and tears, creating fantastical worlds to portray the everyday.

We are multilingual actors, clowns, dancers, puppeteers, singers and creators, who share a passion for simple yet innovative storytelling.

We have created 5 new shows, toured across the UK, Italy, Czech Republic and USA winning multiple awards and critical acclaim.

Haste have a strong creative learning programme, specialising in playfulness, devising and physical theatre adapted to suit a range from 4-year olds to professional creatives, as well as a newly created Playfulness & Dementia series for TIBBS Dementia Foundation

Scratch Piece 4

“The Great Escape” by Shobu Kapoor

Told by the marvellous Shobu Kapoor, in her mother's voice, this is a heart-warming, funny and poignant story about restrictions and restraints; resistance & determination. It's about choice. It's about escape. A great escape.

Shobu Kapoor

Shobu Kapoor is a British actress, producer and writer of Indian descent.

She is most notable for playing the role of Gita Kapoor, the long-suffering wife of market-trader Sanjay (Deepak Verma), in the BBC soap opera EastEnders from 1993 to 1998.

She also appeared in Citizen Khan and Bend It Like Beckham. Shobu has worked in theatre, appearing at the Bristol Old Vic and Theatre Royal, Stratford, and has played in various radio productions

Sameena Zehra - Director

Sameena Zehra is a multi-award winning comedian, writer, storyteller, political satirist, intersectional feminist and humanist with a unique take on the world; equally at home exploring the individual experiences of daily life and the larger issues of the world we live in.

She is also a blues singer/songwriter, director and accomplished actor who has worked at the National Theatre and toured internationally with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Scratch Piece 5

“Tapestry” by Chloe Todd Fordham

For pensioners Mich, Jan and Doris, the Leyton Widows Talk and Sew has been a regular Tuesday afternoon fixture for the last 25 years, a safe haven to talk about everything under the sun from the menopause to Donald Trump to God.

But with health problems looming for Doris, and cuts to the council threatening the group’s closure altogether, the pressure is on to keep this self-made all-female community space alive. When a new younger arrival turns up one Tuesday, jealousies begin to take seed and friendships start to crack.

A story of interwoven stories about friendship, community, love, age, grief and female solidarity.

Chloe Todd Fordham

Chloe is an award-winning playwright from London. Her play SOUND OF SILENCE won a Bruntwood Prize Judges Award in 2015. Her play THE NEXT GENERATION was shortlisted for the 2017 Writers in Theatre Award, run by Out of Joint

Her first play LAND'S END was developed while studying at Goldsmiths University and through the Arcola's inaugural PlayWROUGHT festival, and was later shortlisted for Theatre503's Playwriting Award in 2014.

Short plays include: THE NIGHTCLUB (published in Women Centre Stage (Nick Hern Books); performed as part of Acts of Defiance Festival at Theatre503 and Sphinx's Women Centre Stage Festival at Hampstead Theatre), PLAY 9 (for PLAY Theatre Company, Vault Festival), CHICKEN AND CHIPS, part of ELEXION (Theatre503).

Her co-writing credits include AND OTHERS, a collaboration with Stewart Pringle, Jenny Sealey and Dr Susan Croft, which was staged as a reading at the National Theatre's Courage Everywhere Festival in 2018, and at Rose Bruford in 2019. Chloe is a graduate of the 503Five, Theatre503's writer residency scheme and has attended the Kenyon College Playwrights Conference in Ohio (supported by Bruntwood and the Royal Exchange). She has an MA in Writing for Performance from Goldsmiths University. As a dramaturg she has worked with writers at Graeae, The Royal Court, Talawa, Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse and Theatre503.

Yasmeen Arden - Director

Yasmeen Arden is Artistic Director at Small Truth Theatre. Yasmeen’s recent production of Nest by Katy Warner, was described as 'one of the highlights' of Vault Festival 2018 and Aleks Sierz said of her production ofCaterpillar at Theatre503 and Stephen Joseph Theatre “the standards of writing, directing, design and acting are uniformly very high. Most of all, however, this is a great story brilliantly told”, it gained an Off Westend Award nomination and was selected as a Reader’s Favourite of 2018 in The Guardian. Most recently, she collaborated to create the Kensington Karavan a micro theatre festival in a retro caravan on the streets of Portobello Market.

Directing credits include The award winningThe Three Sillies Arcola Theatre/Somersault/Tour, Poking The Bear by Chris Bush,Elexion by Chloe Todd Fordham Theatre503, Over The Hill There’s Something Better by Sharon Clarke New Diorama, Dead Yard by Matthew Turner (Playwrought/LAB) Arcola,We are Beautiful by Brian Eley Catalyst Festival, as well as sight specific work such as On The Line by Aled Pedrick Ivy House/Merge Festival/Platform Southwark and The Unfortunates on the streets of Watford for Watford Palace Theatre. Yasmeen recently directed Christopher Hogg for his TEDx Talk.