By Jess Meaden
Last month, in honour of the announcement that David Suchet
is to take on the role of Lady Bracknell in the Vaudeville Theatres 2015 production of The Importance of Being Earnest
, we talked about actors who have taken on a female role during their stage career. If you missed that post, you can click here
to catch up.
Since giving so much credit to the lovely gents whove bravely swapped their boxers for bloomers, we figured it would only be fair to raise a glass to the ladies whove likewise traded make-up for moustaches in a stage role.
A Little History...
The presence of women in male stage roles has, historically, been typically dominant in two specific genres of theatre: Shakespeare
and Pantomime. Where the likes of The Globe and the Royal Shakespeare Company
have housed women playing typically male-cast roles for some time, it has become particularly notable in the last decade with names such as Maxine Peake
and Anne Hathaway
playing some of Shakespeares biggest characters both in Manchester and across the pond on Broadway.
In Panto, women have been playing young male roles ever since Eliza Povey
first took to the stage as Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk
in 1819 - preferred to men for their high voice, small frames and lack of facial hair. In recent years weve seen both Bonnie Langford
and Allison Williams
play Peter Pan
with Williams involved in NBCs live broadcast of the Broadway show just last year.
Heres our pick of the ladies whove become the man of the house in recent years:
Treading the boards...
Yes, youve seen her before - this lovely Olivier Award-winning lady played Mrs Figg, Harrys neighbour, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
. But long before she swapped the muggle world for a more magical one, shed become somewhat accustomed to playing male characters in a number of well-known productions. These have included playing the title role in Richard III
(2003), Mr Ido in The Bee
(2006), the Fool in King Lear
(2010) and Puck in A Midsummer Nights Dream
Another Harry Potter actress whos well-known for once playing a Richard. Aunt Petunia aka Fiona Shaw
took on the role of Richard II
in Deborah Warner
s 1995 production of the play. Feedback was unfortunately mixed, with The Sunday Telegraph
brandishing it A disastrous performance
but The Independent
praising it deliberately uncomfortable and compelling
Long before she lay toothless and near-bald belting out I Dreamed A Dream
in a pre-revolutionary France, Miss Hathaway tried her hand in a male stage role when she played Viola/Cesario in Twelfth Night
on Broadway (2009) and to great reviews.
Pippa played The Bastard in King Lear
(2012) and Rosalind (who disguises as a man) in As You Like It
(2013), where she cropped her hair short and decided to not wear an ounce of make-up for the duration of her time in the role. For her next male part, she aspires to play Hamlet and/or Henry V.
BAFTA-nominated actress Maxine Peake
impressed both audiences and critics with her interpretation of Hamlet at Manchesters Royal Exchange last year. Speaking about the role, Peake said: Sometimes, as an actress, there have been male roles where I've thought, I could do that, I could get my head into that. Just because I haven't got the appropriate genitalia doesn't mean that I can't understand that
Whilst on screen...
The Emmy Award-winner and original Cruella de Vil produced, starred and co-wrote Albert Nobbs
in 2012; a film based on George Moore
s short story about a woman who has to disguise herself as a man in order to find work and survive a 19th century Dublin. She first played the role on stage in New York at the beginning of her career.
The Academy Award-winning actress played young nobleman Orlando in the 1992 film directed by Sally Potter and based on the hit novel by Virginia Woolf. Swintons character becomes frustrated and disgusted by the way in which men act and so comes back from a Far East ambassadorship as a woman.
actress Amanda Bynes
traded flower arranging for football when she played Debutant-turned-college footballer Viola in 2006 film Shes The Man
. The film is loosely based on Shakespeares Twelfth Night
, with the characters sharing the same names of those featured in the original play.
Kathleen once described her role as A woman playing a man, playing a woman. Confusing right? The Golden Globe winner was a guest-star on hit US sitcom Friends
, starring as Chandlers drag Queen dad, Charles Bing.
So, what's next?
Whilst on screen weve just had an all-female cast for the upcoming Ghostbusters
revival announced (a film with an original all-male cast), on stage the last season at the Donmar Warehouse saw the second instalment of Phyllida Lloyd
s all-female Shakespeare trilogy (Henry IV
, starring Harriet Walter
) proving that cross-gender acting is as valuable as ever on the modern stage.
Oscar Award-winning actress Emma Thompson
last year called for a future of gender-blind casting in the acting world, stating: Is the heroic role unisex? Or does it mean there is an area of life which remains unexplored, which contains stories which remain untold? I suspect thats the case and it will be very interesting as this generation gets into its stride to see what those stories turn out to be
What's your opinion on cross-gender casting? Tweet us
with your thoughts!