Performing A Womb of One’s Own.
“We just said if you want to be part of the company, come and have a coffee at 10am at the National Theatre, and whoever arrives, that’s the company,” Holly Bond tells me, describing how a group of young women decided to create their own all female theatre collective. It all started with the National Youth Theatre celebrating their anniversary in 2016, where they held an all female class for the first time after being founded as an all male company. This is where five young women found the unique energy of a room full of likeminded females inspiring them to create their own theatre collective. They named it Wonderbox – an all female theatre company focused on new writing, feminist issues, taboo subjects and exploring untold stories.
Holly Bond is one of the founding members of the company and works as their director. Currently a third year Goldsmiths student studying drama and english, she has also worked for theatre company Itch + Scratch as an assistant director, worked as a ‘young producer’ for Almeida Theatre, and assistant directed a National Youth Theatre play this summer. “My ideal career would be to be a full-time theatre maker,” says Bond. “Directing is probably my favourite thing to do. I’d love to direct new writing, I’d love to direct a Shakespeare play, but predominantly I’d love to just make theatre – just making plays and performance and producing it with my company.” Wonderbox’s first play tackled the taboo subject of abortion – based on one of the member’s actual experiences – from the refreshing perspective of a dark comedy. Using four actors to portray the different voices of main character Babygirl, A Womb of One’s Own entwines comedy into a serious, traumatic event, as it was actually experienced.
“Abortion is so common” Bond says.“I’ve met a lot of women who have said ‘that’s happened to me’, and that’s such an amazing feeling. Now I feel so much more able to talk about difficult issues because I know they should be talked about – the conversation should be opened up.” Although one in three women have an abortion, many are surprised when they hear this statistic, most likely because it is something not often talked about. Yet if one in three women have an abortion in their lifetime, women are likely to cross paths with it in some way – whether it be having an abortion themselves, supporting a friend, or just knowing someone that went through it. Why is it that something so common is rarely talked about — and when it is, done so in a negative way? “In soap operas and stuff [abortion is portrayed] like ‘oh my god, should I keep the baby?’, all this fraught drama, when actually, what if you don’t feel like that? What if your main concern is going out and having sex and getting drunk at uni like most people want to do? And those things are all funny, but then this thing gets in the way,” says Bond. “I think it’s really important that people see a lighter side and have a positive view of it rather than it being this life destroying thing, which is always the way it’s shown in films.”
Holly Bond (right) and Claire Rammelkamp.
The women of Wonderbox – Holly Bond, Claire Rammelkamp, Carla Garrett, Danica Corns, and Olivia Early – recognise the importance of working with just women, but want their work to appeal to everyone; their slogan is ‘by women, for everyone’. Bond tells me some of the best reactions to the show have come from men, but most of their criticism has come from men as well. “I’ve just noticed that women have really gotten the show, whereas a lot of men have questioned the show,” says Bond. “We got a piece of criticism that was a bit like, ‘why doesn’t she just google this? I looked at this website when I went online and I found this straight away, why doesn’t she just do that? She’s totally overreacting.’ The way abortion works in England still isn’t good for people. After you’re done they will tell you to go home and then women are having an abortion on the bus home, and there isn’t enough support around how to deal with that.” Bond emphasises that feminist issues are everyone’s issue – inequality that men face are often a result of misogynistic ideals in the first place. “I would love to make a play that had an all male cast but written and directed by women, exploring things that affect men every day like toxic masculinity, suicide, issues that affect men that are to do with inequality between men and women,” says Bond.
As a collective, Wonderbox hope to create a community of artists and theatre makers that can eventually become alumni and help younger artists get started. They’re already off to a great start – their first play has been shown nine times across the UK, and they are currently raising money to put on their show in Edinburgh next summer. They’ve also hosted a monologue-finding workshop and an all-female act variety night with raffles and prizes to raise money for their company.
“In this day and age, with all this shit that’s been happening, it’s so nice to work exclusively with women,” says Bond. “It’s really great to know that we can do it completely ourselves, and it feels like a statement in itself.”
If you are interested in collaborating or getting involved in any way, email [email protected]
All photos courtesy of Wonderbox
Words, Olivia Spring – @oliviaspring8