Natalie Cutler is a feminist writer, actor, filmmaker and creator. After facing gender inequalities in both the arts and general life she was inspired to create her one woman show Not Yet Suffragette which tells the story of the women’s rights movement from the Suffragettes to present day. However it wasn’t just portraying feminism to a range of people that she faced challenges in, but she struggled to get her show programmed which she wrote about in The Stage.
“I think it is so important to have female voices on stage to create alternative perspective because if we don’t create alternative perspective then what we get is a monotone of people stereotyping women as one thing,” she said. “I think theatre and creating things like this is important because it creates a safe space to share alternative ideas.”
When programming her show in theatres across the country she faced many setbacks that she didn’t even realise were setbacks at the time. “When I first created Not Yet Suffragette it was a feminist piece, I put my tool pack together as a one woman comedy show feminist theatre and I had really great feedback and everyone was emailing saying how much they’d love to have me and that I’d be perfect around International Womens Day and if I had any availability in March,” Natalie explained. “I thought, this is perfect, people want to book me around International Womens Day and so the first tour that I did literally was just the entire of March, it wasn’t until the following year when I was trying to book the tour again that people started emailing saying they’d love to have me in March.”
She then realised that people were booking her in March around International Womens Day because it is a feminist show. “People thought that March is the only time that feminist theatre is valid. There are 365 days in the year and 365 days that my show is worth something,” she said. “I even had one theatre that had booked me for September and called me and changed it to March they said to me “Can we change it to March as we have just programmed a whole womens week and you’d be better off in that so they moved me to March purely because I am a feminist show.”
Natalie believes the main problem is that feminism is becoming commercialised. “There is a brand around it and there is money in it and that isn’t what feminism is about,” she said. “Feminism is an issue that needs to be spoken about, not celebrated at a certain point in time, it needs to be celebrated every single day. We need it that it is just as watchable as it is going to the West End and watching a musical and watching a play. It is just theatre done by a woman.”
There is a wider issue in regards to gender inequality in the arts and that is because women’s voices aren’t being portrayed on stage. It was in the Stage literally a couple of weeks ago, it has been announced that this theatre company are creating this new theatre company that are giving opportunities for female actors, so six playwrights have been commissioned to write female-focused stories about women, three of those playwrights are men,” Natalie explained. “You might be able to see where the logic is coming from as they are clearly going for an equal balance but the point is that male writers aren’t doing that, male writers outnumber women 9-1 in the West End, we have now created this feminist theatre route to champion women and three of the playwrights are men.”
It isn’t just the issue of getting her show, which is about feminism and women’s rights, which could have a really strong impact on society, programmed in theatres. Natalie also faced sexism when trying to progress her company Entrepenher. “I am at a stage now where I am building investment to grow my company, when I go into pitch rooms it is a lot of middle aged men with money and they ask me my age, I am 28 and I know why they ask me,” she said. “From there they start to be like “oh aren’t you married, don’t you have children.” They are thinking hang on she’s 28 and at the age to have children so what is the point in me investing, am I going to lose money here? They are basically asking me if I am committed because I am a woman which they wouldn’t be asking men.”
Natalie proves that the industry are really struggling to make progress in regards to gender equality, and people like Natalie who are fighting to make change and put female voices on stage talking about female issues are just being ignored.