If I Were a Boy

Girl-Boy Request

Following the increase in gender-blind casting in Durham Student Theatre, seven Durham actresses choose which male stage role they would most love to play.

Dionysus, The Bacchae by Euripides

Despite the wealth of troubled and complex female characters in Greek tragedy, it’s easy to forget that these were all roles originally written for men. Whilst Medea, Clytemnestra and Electra may all now be female domain, some of the best works deny their female characters any voice – often left to die offstage and in silence – whilst the action is dominated by their male counterparts. Yet there is room for flexibility; take for instance Euripides’ Bacchae, a play deeply concerned with the boundaries of gender and disguise. The divine Dionysus in particular transcends the notion of sex or gender, and it would certainly add another dimension to the tragedy to see the role cast gender neutral. After all, the genre is supposed to be about the suspension of disbelief.

Iago, Othello by William Shakespeare

Watching Rory Kinnear perform Iago in the National Theatre’s production a couple of years ago I got so much role-jealousy. I’ve always imagined it to be the kind of part where when trying to interpret him, your feet would never really touch the bottom. Female roles like that often seem so few and far between. Whereas Iago is in his own right an interesting character, it’s too common for female roles to fall in the periphery of the audience’s attention; simplified only to be important as a pretty face, or an adoring wife, with little attention paid to the building of what’s inside.

 

Stanley Kowalski, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tenessee Williams

Kowalski’s character is raw and unapologetic, representing a new America as opposed to Blanche’s ‘old’ America, with his love of sex and fighting. It would be great to play such a strong character, yet one who is very complex psychologically, as we see him become more and more cruel and brutish throughout the duration of the play. I would enjoy playing a character who is violent at times, as it is rarely the female character who is the aggressive or dominant one in literature.

 

The Emcee, Cabaret

Georgie Franklin

There are some fantastic standout parts for women but the issue is that there’s nothing equivalent to the great male characters who absolutely dominate the canon. It’s a hard ask to even single out certain characters, but I would ultimately love to play the Emcee in Cabaret. He is a disturbing presence throughout the show, a brilliant chameleon and treats the entire audience like his playground – an incredible puppeteer and spellbinding to watch.

 

Wilfred, ‘Playing Sandwiches’ in Talking Heads by Alan

It’s just the most beautifully taut and controlled piece of theatre and for the actor it’s an absolute gift – falling apart inside at the same time as you desperately try to keep the threads of your life together. The end is gut-wrenching. It’s such a brave monologue. It also focuses on a subject (paedophilia) which is often (erroneously) considered to be a solely male-propagated issue: having a female perform it would be a real game-changer and very thought provoking.

 

Macbeth, Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Feerick

I think the male character I would most like to play is probably Macbeth. Although I think with Shakespeare, women are actually quite fortunate because not only is there a wealth of great female parts but also, especially recently, gender-blind casting has become so widely accepted within his plays. When I was 16 I played Lady Macbeth, which was one of my favourite acting experiences to date, but what’s to stop me being cast as Macbeth rather than as his strong-willed wife? I read an amazing article last week where Denise Gough criticised the lack of lead females who are weak, or flawed, despite how commonplace these characteristics are in lead male roles; “We have this thing: ‘Let’s put strong women on the stage’. No, let’s put women on the stage… Why do they have to be strong?”

 

Richard II, Richard II by William Shakespeare

Emilie Aspeling

Having seen The Globe’s production of Richard II this summer I was struck by how the eponymous King evolves throughout the play; developing from young and jejune, to mature and reflective (a profoundly genderless improvement). Having been based on Queen Elizabeth I and her reign, Richard II would be interesting with a female lead playing the role of a man who was based upon a woman; the nuances of gender here could present interesting interpretations! A female Richard II would also highlight further the contrasts between the King and his rival Henry Bolingbroke, which eventually led to Richard’s downfall and Bolingbroke’s ascension.

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