3 min read
Blackpool Grand Theatre put female empowerment in the spotlight with this year’s magical family pantomime Aladdin when it featured an all-girl backstage crew!
All the creative ladies took centre stage behind the scenes at Blackpool Grand Theatre this Christmas as top theatre industry roles were taken up by talented women for this year’s magical pantomime, Aladdin, including the show’s Director, Stage Manager, Stage Technicians, Choreographer and Company Manager.
Historically, theatre staging, and collaborations have been very male dominated, with a significant lack of female representation in key leadership roles within the theatre industry, from Directing and Stage Management roles right through to Sales and Marketing positions.
The Grand joined top pantomime producers, UK Productions Ltd, to challenge traditional gender roles and narratives and pave the way for a high level of female representation within the staging and running of this year’s fabulous festive production. This gave women within the theatre world the opportunity to showcase their immense talent, skill and passion for live theatre and offered much more diverse and inclusive stories.
In this year’s production of Aladdin, Stage Manager (Ashleigh Allcroft), Deputy Stage Manager (Laura Catlow) and Assistant Stage Manager (Elin Isebäck) took the helm backstage for the first time, while panto Director Kylie Butler and Lead Choreographer Katie Hill returned to reprise their top roles as audiences gave Blackpool’s No. 1 pantomime rave reviews!
Blackpool Grand and UK Productions continued to ensure a more balanced presentation throughout panto, as also behind the scenes in lead roles were: Elizabeth Dennis – Head of Wardrobe/Costume Design; Emily Sanderson – Wardrobe Mistress; Eleanor Birchenhough -Wardrobe Assistant; Hannah Mitchell – Bass Player; Kerry Sale – Stage Technician; Saffron Pye – Duty Manager; Lauren Craig – Technical Swing; Amy Atkinson – Stage Technician; Emily Wheeler – Theatre Assistant; Helen Booth – Administrator (Contracts); Helen Naylor – Deputy Head of Audience, Marketing and Sales; Amy Brailsford – Sales and Customer Engagement Manager; Sarah Jane Wright – Marketing & Sales Officer (Press/PR), and Lorraine Hill – Company Manager!
Aladdin Stage Manager, Ashleigh Allcroft, said of her role this year: “I love my job. It’s so great that women are now starting to be seen as equals in our industry after many years of being offered roles that were often seen as more appropriate for us. Yes, we have to work hard to prove our worth and to gain respect, but so do a lot of people starting out in theatre.”
Grand Theatre Sales and Customer Engagement Manager, Amy Brailsford, said: “Pantomime is our busiest time of the year in the theatre Box Office, but it’s also my favourite. It’s a huge responsibility making sure that every single person who books panto with us has a magical experience and I love being able to do that for them. I have also really enjoyed overseeing the team as we put next year’s pantomime Cinderella on sale, which required a huge amount of administration and time management, which I think women excel in.”
Aladdin Company Manager, Lorraine Hill, added: “This is my 20th year as Company Manager and it’s a job I look forward to so much each Christmas. I look after every aspect of the pantomime cast – from running their schedules; liaising between the cast, the show producer and theatre; and looking after their general wellbeing. Being a female brings an important sense of empathy and organisation to the role. I’m the cast mum!”
The Grand also encouraged the emergence of women-centric productions this year and recent standout productions on the Grand stage included the RSC’s exciting new production of Julius Caesar – which explored important questions of gender in leadership and power, and whose crew included Associate Director, Lucy Waterhouse; Associate Music Director, Helen Washington; Composer, Jasmin Kent Rodgman, and Music Director, Lindsey Miller. Comedy drama Quality Street from Northern Broadsides featured a predominantly female cast (Alice Imelda, Paula Lane, Alicia McKenzie, Louisa-May Parker, and Gilly Tompkins), and the Olivier Award winning ‘Best Comedy’ – Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort Of) was written and directed by Isobel McArthur, choreographed by Emily Jane Boyle and starred Lucy Gray, Dannie Harris, Leah Jamieson, Emmy Stonelake, Megan Louise Wilson, Ruth Brotherton in its fabulous all-female cast.
The past decade has witnessed a gradual shift towards greater gender equality in theatre. Initiatives such as gender-blind casting, diversity programs, and increased awareness have contributed to positive changes. Anecdotal evidence suggests an increase in the presence of women in various roles in theatre. This includes a higher percentage of female directors, writers, and actors in prominent productions.
The future for women in theatre looks encouraging. Ongoing efforts to address gender disparities, coupled with a changing societal landscape, are likely to lead to increased opportunities, recognition, and representation for women in all aspects of theatre.
Adam Knight, Blackpool Grand Theatre Chief Executive, said: “The theatre industry across the UK has seen positive shifts in gender dynamics over the past decade, with increasing efforts to address historical imbalances. While challenges persist, the momentum toward greater inclusivity and diversity bodes well for the future of women in theatre. Blackpool Grand is proud to challenge these stereotypes and provide a platform for women to explore and excel in these critical behind-the-scenes roles and we are thrilled to work with UK Productions and other partners on ensuring level access and openness.”
Martin Dodd, UK Productions producer, added: “Continued advocacy, awareness, and support for gender equality initiatives are crucial in ensuring a more equitable and diverse theatrical landscape both locally, regionally, and nationally, and here at UK Productions we fully support that. We believe in fostering an inclusive environment where everyone, regardless of gender, can contribute their unique talents to the world of theatre.”
For further information on Blackpool Grand Theatre and all its amazing live shows please visit www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk or call the Box Office on 01253 290190
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