On October 28th in introducing its Waking the Nation programme, the promo video for the Abbey Theatre quoted the 1916 rebel and Abbey actress Helena Molony: “We Saw A Vision of Ireland, Free, pure, happy. We did not realise this vision but we saw it.”
A living actress stated: “We thought we were going to be part of this big thing (to free our country)”. It’s somewhat ironic now that while women would constitute 100% of the promo video, only 10% would be part of the reality when it came to their vision on stage.
By the afternoon spurred on by Lian Bell’s identification of the glaring female imbalance in the programme, a social media storm was brewing. It was clear that their vision for theatre in 2016 represented a blinkered one which was borne out of unwitting biases and ingrained attitudes. Sure everyone loves a revival of The Plough and the Stars right?
This afternoon at 1pm, The Abbey Theatre is likely to see a record attendance and standby list for any production in living memory. A myriad of articulate voices will galvanise under the #WakingTheFeminists banner.
While The Abbey has proven the lightning rod, they are certainly not the only cultural organisation who need to examine their rhetoric, support and policies towards equality and diversity at all levels. Hopefully the thrilling energy unleashed by this campaign will lead to a spate of constructive contributions and initiatives resulting in a vision not just being seen but being realised.